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  • Writer's pictureA & D Environmental Services

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was widely used in the UK for its excellent thermal and electrical insulating properties and is highly heat resistant. It was commonly used in building materials, automotive parts, and various industrial applications.

However, asbestos poses significant health risks, particularly when its fibres are inhaled. These fibres can cause serious lung conditions, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

In the UK, the use of asbestos was heavily regulated and eventually banned due to these health hazards. Here is a brief overview of its status and regulation in the UK:

1.     Types of Asbestos: There are six types of asbestos, but the three most commonly used in the UK were chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), and crocidolite (blue asbestos).

2.     Uses: Asbestos was widely used in construction for roofing, insulation, floor tiles, and cement products. It was also used in shipbuilding, automotive brakes, and fireproof clothing.

3.     Health Risks: Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause lung diseases, including:

  • Asbestosis: A chronic lung condition caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, leading to lung tissue scarring.

  • Mesothelioma: A rare and aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart.

  • Lung Cancer: Asbestos exposure significantly increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

4.     Regulation and Ban:

  • Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: These regulations require strict control measures and safety procedures for working with asbestos, including licensing, training, and protective equipment.

  • Ban: The UK banned the use of asbestos in 1999, and the import, supply, and use of asbestos-containing materials were prohibited.

5.     Management of Asbestos: Buildings constructed before the year 2000 may still contain asbestos. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidelines for managing and safely removing asbestos, including:

  • Asbestos Surveys: Identifying and assessing the presence of asbestos in buildings.

  • Asbestos Management Plans: Developing strategies to manage asbestos in place if it is not immediately hazardous.

  • Safe Removal: Ensuring that any asbestos removal is carried out by licensed contractors following strict safety protocols.

6.     Legal Responsibilities: Property owners, employers, and managers have legal duties to manage asbestos risks in their premises. This includes conducting risk assessments, maintaining asbestos registers, and informing anyone who may come into contact with asbestos about its presence and risks.

For more detailed information and guidance, individuals and businesses can refer to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website and resources.

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