Checkout list of most frequently asked questions and answers.
- What is asbestos?
- What does asbestos look like?
- What is an ACM?
- Why is asbestos dangerous?
- Why do we need an asbestos survey?
- What materials can contain asbestos?
- What types of asbestos are there?
- What harm can asbestos cause?
- There’s asbestos in my building, now what?
- Who is responsible for asbestos removal?
- Which buildings may be affected?
- How do I remove asbestos?
- How and why is it used?
- When was asbestos use prohibited?
- How do I assess the condition of ACMs (Asbestos Containing Materials)?
- What is UKAS?
- Friable ACM vs non-friable ACM
- How resilient is asbestos?
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is an umbrella term for a huge spectrum of materials that occur in nature. When it comes to its use in construction, it reached its peak popularity in the 1980s, just before first reports about its toxicity started to see the light of day. After that it was quickly banned and is now no longer extracted anywhere (formerly, the main countries of asbestos mines were the USSR, Russia, Canada and South Africa). The most important quality of that material is that it is fibrous in nature. Splitting the strands of that chemical is particularly hazardous and can lead to serious health conditions. Because of its immense popularity several decades ago, now literally every building which was created in the second part of the 20th century can be at risk of having asbestos. That is why it is so tremendously important to have professionals run checks on your construction and pass on a professional judgement on whether you and your dear ones can be at risk.
What does asbestos look like?
Asbestos is a very tricky chemical to discover. It is often hidden in places such as insulation, roofing, piping and others, moreover it can hardly ever be spotted with the naked eye. The crucial point which has to be made is that asbestos is most dangerous when it becomes airborne as then it can get into your lungs and cause irreparable damage. That is why it is critically important to not start any refurbishment in a newly inhabited flat or house without making sure that it does not contain this noxious material. The list of potential places where it can exist is long and should discourage every DIY person from tampering with the areas of your flat that you are unsure of.
What is an ACM?
ACM is a shortcut for asbestos containing material. Contrary to popular belief, this chemical rarely exists in a clear form, more often it can be spotted as an ingredient of other compounds that thousands of buildings are made of. Living in a dwelling which as asbestos containing materials is not always dangerous but the risk certainly rises as the material gets older. When it deteriorates, it will very often become airborne and that is one of the main risk factors that can lead to very acute illnesses of the respiratory system.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
In fairness, it has to be said that not all cases of asbestos pose a significant risk to people’s health. Despite the common perception of this material, not every kind of exposure is deadly and there are some cases of people living in close contact with that chemical who did not contract any diseases whatsoever. However, these are some of the luckiest people on the planet Earth as usually asbestos deteriorates over the years or during redecorations which triggers the release of a toxic dust. Inhaling it multiplies the risk of getting lung cancer and ailments such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Why do we need an asbestos survey?
Asbestos comes in multiple forms and, also, as an ingredient of other materials used in insulation, tiles or piping. It is thus almost besides human possibilities to diagnose the area where you live without a professional’s help as few us of really know what is every part of our dwelling made of (especially if we did not supervise the construction). Using the helping hand of an asbestos surveyor can really put to bed the problems that you weren’t even aware of! If asbestos is detected, usually this person can suggest the best course of action in order to remove it.
What materials can contain asbestos?
Asbestos can exist in multiple places but there are a few main areas where it usually resides. Most commonly in can be spotted in roofs, walls and insulations of both residential and commercial buildings. Also, it is used to be commonly implemented in piping and different cement products. We sometimes compare this material to a ticking time bomb as every month with asbestos draws you closer to dire health consequences which are connected with asbestos disintegration. In general, it is highly discouraged to attempt any construction or redecoration works in places which were built a couple of decades ago and did not have the asbestos survey done.
What types of asbestos are there?
Asbestos can be broken into several groups which also determine its dangerousness: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Chrysotile is the most popular type of asbestos, sometimes referred to as white asbestos. Exposure to it has been linked with diseases such as mesothelioma. Amosite is, in turn, known as brown asbestos which was commonly used as fire retardant in insulation. It is widely considered to be the second most deadly kind of asbestos.
What harm can asbestos cause?
Asbestos, in some cases, is a very serious chemical that can lead to very grave health consequences. If it deteriorates and becomes airborne, inhaling it has been often linked with diseases of the respiratory system such as lung cancer. One of the most severe illnesses is asbestosis, an inflammatory condition that results in breathing difficulties and irreversible lung damage. The trickiest part about asbestos exposure is the fact that the ailments tend to occur even after 40 years since the initial exposure which causes people to realise about their state too late to act.
There’s asbestos in my building, now what?
First of all, you should refrain from abrupt actions. Under no condition should you rush in order to get rid of the asbestos yourself as this type of behaviour puts you at an immense risk of being exposed to asbestos. After all, it cannot be ruled out that the asbestos you have in your flat is in a relatively good condition and does not pose any immediate threat. That is why you should hire an asbestos surveyor who will use her or his expertise about the most common asbestos containing materials. Usually, samples are also taken in order to establish the state of the material and its kind. So, by all means, your first step should be to call the experts on asbestos removal and have them survey your building.
Who is responsible for asbestos removal?
Asbestos removal should be handled with all the necessary safety measures in mind. The fact that it very easily becomes airborne should be a big red flag for all the daredevils who think that they can get rid of it without asking for professional help. It didn’t use to be the case a couple of years ago but now there are plenty of companies which are ready to solve that problem for you, ensuring the highest safety standards. It is thus tremendously important to contact professionals and let them remove asbestos if you do not want to put anyone in jeopardy.
Which buildings may be affected?
Asbestos, because of its resistance and sturdiness, was very popular between 1960s and 80s. However, some experts say that it is advisable to run appropriate checks on constructions which were erected even before 2000. All that because asbestos reached its peak popularity during that period and it would an exaggeration to claim that it has been dealth with completely after it was banned around 1985. It still resides in thousands of constructions all over the UK and can still be spotted in buildings that have not been renovated for a long time or deserted. It is still very often present as part of insulation, piping or roofing which makes spotting it even more of a challenge.
How do I remove asbestos?
First of all, you should immediately drop the idea of doing it yourself. As it was mentioned in the previous questions, attempting to remove the asbestos yourself is a really risky task that should only be performed by professionals. Being aware of all the risk factors and proper handling of asbestos is critical when it comes to removing asbestos. It is similarly important to remember that the task of getting rid of it should also involve the disposal of that noxious chemical and that rarely can be done by a layman without proper expertise. It is highly recommended to let the removal process be coordinated by certified asbestos removal companies which can ensure the necessary safety measures and take care of all the intricate details that this action implies.
How and why is it used?
Asbestos is commonly perceived as a construction material of the past, one of the most dangerous chemicals that used to be the ultimate source of dangerous diseases. However, one would be seriously mistaken to think that this chemical was safely and completely got rid of all over the country. Actually, it is quite the contrary, it is still present in a plethora of places and may still pose a significant risk to the unaware inhabitants. It was used primarily because of its durability and qualities such as fire resistance and cost-effectiveness. Among the people who should be especially wary of asbestos-related risks are the building workers and the individuals working in maintenance.
When was asbestos use prohibited?
The ban on asbestos was levied in different years, depending on the country. In general, the first reports about its consequences started to appear around 1985. That was when the first reports of carcinogenic activity started to crop up, starting an unprecedented removal action. In the UK the ban was administered in 1989 but there are still countries in the world which have not made that call yet. However, it has to be said that a vast majority of the European states now have appropriate legislation in place in order to tackle the issue of asbestos. Its execution is a topic for another discussion though.
How do I assess the condition of ACMs (Asbestos Containing Materials)?
In general, people should refrain from trying to assess the condition of asbestos containing materials. There is always a danger that accessing the suspected areas may bring more harm than good and trigger the harmful side effects of asbestos exposure. However, if you insist on doing it yourself instead of hiring a professional surveyor, you have to bear in mind the following points: first of all, you have to check the surface of the material and see if it is in any way damaged. Another warning sign would be if the material is peeling off or breaking down which may be an indication that the asbestos fibres are already airborne. Finally, if you notice some dust or debris nearby the suspected area, it is absolutely critical to not pursue with the process but call an asbestos management company.
What is UKAS?
UKAS, which stands for United Kingdom Accreditation Service, is an organisation which grants accreditation for companies dealing with asbestos sampling and testing. It is worth remembering that when it comes to choices such as the asbestos surveyor and removal company the quality and absolute compliance with standards is crucial if no one is to get hurt. That is why it is highly recommended to make sure that the contractor chosen is included on UKAS list. That is the ultimate proof that a given company can be trusted and will perform the work in accordance with the binding rules.
Friable ACM vs non-friable ACM
The basic difference between these two types of asbestos lies in their toughness. Both friable ACMs and non-friable ACMs are materials which contain more than 1 percent of asbestos but the former can be broken into dust by means such as applying pressure while the latter should withstand it and is not that easily-crumbled. That particular feature of these materials has a significant bearing on the procedure chosen for asbestos removal and may sometimes even cause the surveyor to recommend leaving it as it is (in case it is a non-friable ACM in a good condition).
How resilient is asbestos?
The resilience of asbestos used to be perceived as a genuine blessing as it allowed for implementing it on a massive scale in construction works. It was commonly utilized as part of the insulation, roofing, tiling and other elements. However, with the rise of its notoriety and piling evidence showing its carcinogenic character, the very same resilience started to be a seen as a genuine curse. Primarily because it means that special safety measures have to be maintained while disposing of it. Fortunately, there are dozens of professional companies who can safely deal with that problem and make it go away.