What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a fire-resistant mineral that has been widely used in building construction, insulation and home products. It is now illegal to use asbestos when building or refurbishing a building, but if your property was constructed between 1945 and 1985 it is possible that it contains materials containing asbestos.
Main uses of asbestos in the home
The three types of asbestos fibres most commonly used in the UK are blue, brown and white. Asbestos products can only be identified by laboratory analysis and all three types of asbestos should be treated as being equally hazardous, so the format of the product is more important than the type of asbestos.
The main uses in and around the home are:
Bonded asbestos materials or asbestos cement
Asbestos cement is the most commonly found form of asbestos in the home. A combination of cement and asbestos, it is a hard brittle greyish material. The actual asbestos content may range between 10-15%, which could be either white, brown or blue asbestos. Asbestos cement can be used in:
- flat or corrugated sheets used for garages and sheds
- soffit and fascia boards
- lining cladding for fire protection
- cold water storage tanks
- external rainwater pipes and guttering
- internal partition walls
Other forms of asbestos that can be found in the household include:
- asbestos lagging: used in pipe and boiler lagging
- asbestos insulation board: used in fire-proof cladding, thermal insulation board and acoustic panels
- sprayed coatings: used for fire-proofing
The following external websites offer advice and information to help you assess whether asbestos is present in your property:
- 'Managing Asbestos in Buildings' advice booklet - on the Heath & Safety Executive (HSE) website
- Asbestos Health & Safety - on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website
What are the hazards?
Asbestos found in good condition does not necessarily present any health risks. However when asbestos cement products become damaged, broken or disturbed during construction work (eg drilling, sanding or sawing), or deteriorate over time, asbestos fibres are released.
Being exposed to asbestos fibres is dangerous and can lead to asbestos-related diseases, such as lung cancer.
Within industry, a safe maximum level of exposure to asbestos has been agreed, but it is best to avoid all exposure to asbestos.
For more information on the health hazards relating to asbestos, please see:
How to manage asbestos cement products safely
If you think your home or outbuildings may contain asbestos cement, check the panels are well sealed or painted over, and surfaces are not exposed. If the material is in good condition it can be left as it is, as long as you keep an eye on it.
Painting over cement material can help seal it and prevent fibres from being released, but you should use an alkali resistant primer or coating. Do not rub down before painting, as this will release fibres. If the asbestos cement product has been fitted for fire protection, a fire retardant paint should be used.
Removal and disposal of asbestos cement
You can safely remove small quantities from asbestos cement from your home as long as you follow the following safety measures:
- Wear a dust mask which is designed for asbestos removal and disposable coveralls. If you wear a pair of non disposable overalls you will need to wash them separately immediately after use
- Clear the area and put down a polythene sheet to catch the debris
- Wet the area with either a damp cloth or water sprayer:
- If you use a cloth you should dispose of it straight away
- Using a little washing up liquid in the water will help bond the dust
- Never use water near a power source
- If possible, remove the fixings (ie bolts, nails, etc) from the sheet and take the product down whole. Do not break up the sheets
- Place the asbestos in a plastic bag or seal it with polythene sheeting. Double bag it and mark the bag 'Asbestos'
- Wipe the area down with a wet cloth and dispose of the cloth
- Wash yourself thoroughly
- If the item removed provided fire or heat protection, it must be replaced immediately with a suitable alternative
Asbestos cement can be taken to the household waste recycling site, or tip, at Worthing by domestic householders only. It will need to be double bagged and sealed with tape and can only be placed in special bins.
Please note that the tip at Shoreham-by-Sea cannot accept asbestos.
For further information please see:
Other types of asbestos
Removal of any other types of asbestos-containing material can only be carried out by a registered asbestos removal expert.
Smaller asbestos items like oven gloves, fire blankets, simmering mats, etc, may be disposed of by placing them into a sealed bag and taking to a licensed tip (see above).
If you want to make a complaint regarding asbestos within the home, or have an enquiry, please contact our Private Sector Housing Team:
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Page last updated: 18 January 2022