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About Asbestos

A brief introduction into asbestos, where it can be found and how to deal with it.

Last Updated: 5th December 2023 (Latest edit made to asbestos types section)

What is Asbestos? 

Asbestos refers to a group of minerals (Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, Tremolite, Anthophyllite, Actinolite) that comprise certain microscopic fibres. This collectively became known as asbestos, something that was used in construction projects across the UK throughout the last century.

Use of the substance declined during the 1980s and asbestos become officially illegal towards the turn of the millennium.This is once the danger it posed became clear. However, it continues to exist in high quantities throughout the UK.

This is why locating and removing asbestos is so important today. However, this should only ever be attempted by qualified professionals who are trained in asbestos removal.

Want to learn more? He's some other interesting articles we've written:

Where Can It Be Found?

Asbestos can be found in any building that was constructed during the 20th century.

It has been used in walls, ceilings and flooring as insulation material. Although it can also be found covering piping and other forms of industrial machinery within homes and commercial buildings.Asbestos was also blended into concrete and cement, so it can appear on roofs, drainpipes and other external building fittings.

The key to locating asbestos is to use a testing kit on materials suspected of containing it. Alternatively hiring an asbestos surveyor to conduct a full survey of the property (How much does a survey cost?)

Want to learn more about where asbestos can be found? Here some other pages which may interest you:

Artex / Textured Coatings 
Commonly found in ceilings and walls.
Click to learn more.

Cement Sheets
Commonly found in roofing and walls
Click to learn more.

Floor Tiles 
Commonly found in roofing and walls
Click to learn more.

Insulation Board / AIB
Commonly found in ceilings and walls.
Click to learn more.

Thermal Insulation
Commonly found on pipework
Click to learn more.

Loose Fill
Commonly found in lofts/attic
Click to learn more.

Fire Doors
Commonly found in commercial premises
Click to learn more.

Sprayed Coating
Commonly found around pipe and steelwork
Click to learn more.

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Wallpaper Commonly found in vinyl wallpaper
Click to learn more.

asbestos-waste-pipe.jpeg__PID:086854a0-a631-49bd-96c6-2a4558eee6e3

Waste Pipes
Commonly found as cement piping
Click to learn more.

asbestos-flue-pipe.jpeg__PID:d8c4b163-4758-4ba9-8c7c-18ac8696af45

Flue Pipes Commonly found around pipe and steelwork
Click to learn more.

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Soffits Commonly found above windows and near guttering
Click to learn more.

Here is are some more products which sometimes contained asbestos: Rope, Bitumen, Adhesives, Mastics & Sealants, Gaskets & Rope Seals, Paper, Lino Flooring, Roofing Felt, Paint.

Why Was Asbestos Used?

If asbestos was so dangerous, then why was it used? Well, Asbestos was very popular before its dangers were discovered.

It was considered a ‘magic material’ by those in the construction trade. This is mainly because it is fireproof, non-conducive and thoroughly insulating, meaning building companies used it wherever they could. It was also cheap and easy to produce.

 In time, it became so widely used that the task of tracking it down for removal is still going on today.

Worryingly asbestos will probably still be found in buildings many years from now.

What Are My Obligations If I Have Asbestos in My Home or Commercial Property?

First consider when your building was constructed or modified. If your building is due repairs or renovation work and you suspect asbestos may be present, you’ll need to detect it first. Before starting this process its worth working out who is responsible for asbestos in the building?

This can be done by either using one of our asbestos sample testing kits or arranging for a full asbestos survey, for a more thorough search.

If asbestos is detected within the area due for renovation or repair, then it will need to be removed to ensure the safety of those nearby (this could be yourself, your family, employees or contractors). 

Its worth noting that if you do find asbestos in your property in good condition and with no need to be disturbed, then there is no reason to get it removed. Asbestos in good condition and without being disturbed is perfectly safe as the asbestos fibres are contained within the material.

If you do find asbestos and would like it removed professionally then we recommend visiting the HSE Website to find a licensed contractor,

If you are an employee who may come into contact with asbestos when carrying out your duties then your employer is legally obligated to provide asbestos awareness training

What Are The Chances My Sample Contains Asbestos?

Unfortunately each and every situation is different and so its a near impossible question to quantify. If you suspect a material contains asbestos the best and only course of action should be to have it tested.

After analysing the latest 3,000 samples submitted to us we broke down the percentage of negative and positive samples grouped up by material type. This will give you an idea of what % of samples ended up being positive for asbestos content. You should not make a judgement call on whether any material contains asbestos based on this data - it is purely based on samples submitted to us. 

Material TypePositive (Contained Asbestos)Negative (No Asbestos Detected)
Artex / Textured Coating24%76%
Cement Roofing69%31%
Floor Tiles46%54%
Insulation Board62%38%
Cement Pipework47%53%

This sample of data was taken as of 26th October 2023 and is made up of the last 3,000 samples processed by us as of this date.

What Are the Health Risks of Asbestos?

Asbestos fibres can be inhaled and can cause asbestosis, pleural thickening & lung cancer over time.

If asbestos is disturbed, it can release thousands of dangerous microscopic fibres into the air. These can then be breathed in and cause irreparable damage. The fibres can cause a range of dangerous respiratory disorders that develop slowly over time.

This is why asbestos needs to be located and removed before renovation work begins. Asbestos which is in good condition and remains undisturbed poses little risk to health. But all buildings need repair work and renovation at some point. This is usually when asbestos becomes a concern – and when it can get disturbed and the particles released. Please always remember to wear sufficient PPE when working with asbestos, or any materials which could contain asbestos.

If attempting to remove asbestos yourself first consult the HSE website to check its safe for you to carry out yourself, and ensure any asbestos containing materials are double bagged using clear & red asbestos bags.

The content on this page/article was last updated on the 5th December 2023 by our team and was reviewed and fact checked by William Wright, DipNEBOSH on the 5th December 2023.

William is a qualified health & safety consultant who holds NEBOSH & IOSH certifications.

Have you thought about using an asbestos testing kit to check suspect materials?

Our kits have been specifically designed to enable you to quickly and safely take a sample and send them off to a UKAS accredited lab for testing. Results are issued within 24hrs of us receiving them.

  • Full Protective Equipment Included (including FFP3 Respirator, Cat 5 Coveralls & Gloves)
  • Have your certificate results within 24hrs
  • Free Return Postage to the UKAS Lab
  • Easy to follow instructions included.
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