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What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a fire-resistant mineral widely used in building construction, insulation and home products that has been found to pose a health hazard. If your property was constructed between 1945 and 1985 it's possible that it contains materials made from asbestos. Common locations are listed below but there may be others in your home - so if in doubt leave well alone and seek expert help.

The following external websites offer advice and information, which we hope will assist home owners to assess whether asbestos is present in the building, before works are carried out:

Asbestos products can only be identified by laboratory analysis, and all three types of asbestos (brown, white or blue) should be treated as being equally hazardous.

For householders the crucial classification is between:

  • bonded asbestos materials (asbestos cement) 
  • and any other asbestos materials such as:
    • asbestos insulation board (used for fire-proofing cladding
    • thermal insulation board and acoustic panels)
    • soft asbestos (often found on pipe and boiler lagging)
    • sprayed asbestos (used for fire-proofing)

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Asbestos cement

There are many uses of asbestos to be found within and around the home the most commonly found are asbestos cement products.

Asbestos cement is a hard brittle greyish material. As its name suggests, asbestos cement is a combination of cement and asbestos. The actual asbestos content may range between 10-15% of which may be either white, brown or blue asbestos.

Its uses around the home include:

  • Flat or corrugated sheets used mainly for garages and sheds
  • Soffit and fascia boards
  • As a lining cladding for fire protection
  • Cold water storage tanks
  • External rainwater pipes and guttering
  • For internal partition walls

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Hazards and health risks


Asbestos cement products in good condition present no health hazard. However, when the material becomes damaged, broken or when worked upon, eg drilling, sanding or sawing, asbestos fibres will be released. Asbestos fibres may be released when the material becomes friable (crumbly or fragile) through age.

Breathing the released asbestos fibres is dangerous. Within industry, a safe maximum level of exposure to asbestos has been agreed. It is best however, to avoid all exposure to asbestos.

Health risks

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What should you do with asbestos cement products?

Leave alone and manage

If the material is in good condition and is unlikely to be damaged, it should be left in place and monitored to ensure its continuing safety.

Painting asbestos cement material inside the home can help to seal the material and prevent damage and fibres being released.

  • If you decide to paint over asbestos cement, use an alkali resistant primer or coating.
  • Never rub down the asbestos before painting, this will release asbestos 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 products

Small quantities of asbestos cement may be removed safely by yourself providing you follow the guidance below:

  • Clear the area
  • Put down a polythene sheet to catch the debris
  • Wear an appropriate dust mask and disposable coverall. Your hardware shop should be able to advise you on the types available. If you are unable to obtain a disposable coverall it is advisable to wear a pair of overalls and wash them separately immediately after use
  • Wet the area with either a damp cloth or water sprayer. If a cloth is used, it must be disposed of after. Putting a little washing up liquid in the water will help bond the dust
  • Never use water near electricity
  • If possible, remove the fixings, ie bolts, nails etc. from the sheet and take the product down whole. Do not break the sheets
  • Place the asbestos in a plastic bag or seal it with polythene sheeting. Mark the bag 'Asbestos'. Double bag the article. Try not to break it up
  • Wipe the area down with a wet cloth and again dispose of with the asbestos waste
  • Wash yourself on completion of the task
  • If the item removed provided fire or heat protection, it must be replaced immediately with a suitable alternative

Household waste recycling sites (amenity site/tip)

  • Shoreham-by-Sea: please note the Shoreham-by-Sea site cannot accept asbestos
  • Worthing: please note the Worthing site can only accept some types of asbestos
  • For full details see the Household waste recycling sites webpage

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Other asbestos products

With materials other than asbestos cement, removal can only be carried out by a registered specialist asbestos removal contractor. Details of such contractors can be found in the Yellow Pages or similar publications or websites.

Smaller asbestos items like oven gloves, fire blankets, simmering mats, etc. may be disposed of by placing it into a sealed bag and again delivering to a licensed tip (see above).


  • Asbestos will be found in most homes
  • If in good condition such asbestos can remain with safety
  • If damaged, asbestos fibres can be released
  • Breathing asbestos dust can be harmful

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Make a complaint

If you have a complaint or enquiry regarding asbestos, please contact the Private Sector Housing Team:

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