Asbestos: – Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the health risks concerning Asbestos?
Asbestos is currently responsible for over 5000 deaths every year. Exposure to asbestos can cause four main diseases:
It can take anywhere between 15-60 years for any symptoms to develop after exposure to asbestos fibres, so these diseases will not affect you immediately but may do later in life. You need to protect yourself against any exposure to asbestos because the effect is cumulative.
Asbestos was a widely used material within commercial buildings, homes and machinery until 1999, when it was banned. This means that asbestos is common in the general environment. However, working directly with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can give personal exposures to airborne asbestos that are much higher than normal environmental levels. Repeated occupational exposures can give rise to a substantial cumulative exposure over time. This will increase the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease in the future.
The majority of the current fatal cases from asbestos exposure are associated with very high exposures from past industrial processes and installation of asbestos products.
2. What is an asbestos survey and do I need one?
An asbestos survey is an effective way to help you identify and manage asbestos in your building to provide accurate information about the location, amount and type of any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Asbestos may be present in any premises built or refurbished before 1999.
The survey will involve sampling and analysis to determine the presence of asbestos, therefore asbestos surveys should only be carried out by competent surveyors who can clearly demonstrate they have the necessary skills, experience and qualifications.
An asbestos survey will identify:
Following a survey, the surveyor will produce a survey report which details the findings.
If you are proposing to carry out refurbishment work or demolition of a building, a more intrusive asbestos survey will be required to identify ACMs which may be ‘hidden’ within the fabric of the building – discuss your plans and proposals with the asbestos surveyor to target the scope of the survey to suit your needs.
In some circumstances it may be appropriate to sample and analyse a particular building material to determine whether it contains asbestos or not – speak with your surveyor to confirm arrangements.
3. I have just bought a property, could it contain asbestos?
Asbestos may be present in any commercial or domestic building built or refurbished before 1999. Asbestos can typically still be found in any of the following locations:
4. I think I may have asbestos in my home, what should I do?
Do not try to repair or remove any asbestos materials yourself if you have not been suitably trained for working with asbestos materials. You can seek advice from an environmental health officer at your local authority/council.
If you are sure (or strongly suspect) that your home contains asbestos materials then it is often best to leave them where they are – especially if they are in good condition and unlikely to get damaged. You should check the condition of the materials from time to time to make sure they haven’t been damaged or started to deteriorate.
Slightly damaged asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can sometimes be repaired by sealing or enclosing them. However, you should only attempt to do this if you have had the necessary training. Any badly-damaged asbestos material that is likely to become further damaged should be removed if it cannot be protected. Some materials (sprayed asbestos coatings, asbestos lagging / insulation or asbestos insulating board) should only be removed by a HSE licensed contractor.
If you are planning DIY home improvements, repairs or maintenance – and intend to bring in any additional builders, maintenance workers or contractors – you should inform them of any asbestos materials in your home before they start work. This will help reduce the risks of any ACMs being disturbed.
The HSE strongly encourages the use of trained professionals to repair or remove ACMs. If you choose to carry out DIY repairs or remove damaged asbestos materials yourself, make sure you wear the right protective equipment and follow safe working methods
In addition, please be aware that ACMs need to be legally disposed of as hazardous waste. This should not be mixed with normal household waste.
5. Can I sell an item which contains asbestos?
No. It is illegal to supply any article containing asbestos, whether for money or free of charge.
6. Asbestos in Soils?
An area of land that was previously developed typically for industrial, agricultural and commercial purposes may be contaminated with asbestos containing materials which may lay buried in the ground, present on the surface or immediately beneath the surface.
Before digging or disturbing the ground, it is good practice to sample the ground first. Any suspicious material requires analysis for asbestos. And even if no asbestos is found in the sample, the excavation may still reveal suspicious material?
Where a suspicious material is found, the contractor should:
The contractor must not back-fill with asbestos material.
You should then arrange for an asbestos surveyor to take a sufficient number of samples for asbestos analysis.
Following the results of the asbestos sampling and analysis, you may need to employ a HSE-licensed asbestos contractor to complete the job, discuss recommendations with the asbestos surveyor. Spoil that contains asbestos needs safe disposal in accordance with waste regulations.
7. Fly Tipped Asbestos, What should I do?
It is imperative that fly-tipped asbestos is removed safely and disposed of properly to ensure that dust and fibres are not released in to the atmosphere. It is advisable that specialist, HSE licensed asbestos removal contractors are employed to remove the asbestos products. It is important to deal with fly tip incidents quickly to prevent further disturbance and distribution of the asbestos containing material over a larger area which makes the clear up more difficult, time consuming, costly and potentially the exposure to fibres more likely.
Experience indicates that fly tipped building waste can be a combination of general building materials and asbestos containing materials so if in doubt seek advice from a competent asbestos removal company before disposal.
Last year, a man from Southampton was sentenced to 225 hours community service after he admitted three counts of dumping waste including cement roofing sheets which contained asbestos and bitumen roof felt, in the gardens of council owned properties. In addition, he was ordered to pay £1,000 in respect of legal costs and £5,000 to the Council so that the asbestos waste could be cleaned up properly.
Project: Former Refuse Site
Scope of Work: Contaminated Land Remediation.
The Local Government Officer in charge of the project provided the following testimonial:-
“I would also like to thank yourselves for your support and excellent service to complete the project, especially in the time frames we were working to.
Look forward to working with you again.”
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