Here in the UK, many home-owners have older properties, as it’s part of the character of the land. While these older properties are stunning to look at, unfortunately, they can house hidden health hazards such as asbestos. According to research carried out by the British Lung Foundation, approximately 14 million
homes in the UK were built with asbestos. Perhaps even scarier than that is the fact that surveys show
that 65% of home-owners admitted they didn’t know how to identify asbestos.
What this means is that a lot of education is needed when it comes to home-owners in the UK and the asbestos that may be hidden behind their walls and ceilings. Here we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about asbestos, including why it’s so dangerous to your health, how to identify it, and what to do if your home has the material somewhere.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos itself isn’t just one thing. Rather, it’s made up of six different, naturally occurring minerals. The minerals consist of very fine fibres that are resistant to a variety of chemicals, fire and heat. There’s no odour or taste to them and, unless you know what to look for, they’re undetectable.
In the past, asbestos was used to fireproof building materials, which means it was quite common to find it in houses. Unfortunately, after it was widely used, it was also determined that exposure to it can lead to mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer. These diseases can be deadly, which is why home-owners should not be taking a risk. Between 2011-2013, there were 2,538 deaths in the UK due to mesothelioma.
In the UK, structures that were renovated or built before the year 2000 have a chance of containing asbestos. There are some regions in the country that are known to have more asbestos sites than others. These regions contain asbestos not just in homes but in commercial buildings, refineries, power plants, schools, factories and chemical plants.
In 1985, the UK banned the use and import of brown (amosite) and blue (crocidolite) asbestos. The law was then replaced in 1992 to include the use and import of white (chrysotile) asbestos. During the 1990s, the government also clamped down on how work was to be conducted on structures that contained the material, stating that only a licensed professional could go about removing it. Then in 2006, the law was strengthened again, and a maximum exposure limit set that required additional strict training regarding how to handle the substance.
Does your home have asbestos?
Of course, no-one wants to think their home was constructed using asbestos; however, for you and your family’s health and safety, it’s vital you find out. Whilst it’s safe to say that any home built before the year 2000 is at risk, those built prior to the 1980s are almost certain to contain it. The typical areas in which the material was used was in the insulation, exteriors such as the shingles and roof, in flooring, the interior walls, in wiring and in old appliances, and in the heating and boiler systems.
The trick with asbestos is that it’s harmless so as long as it’s mixed with other materials or it’s contained within casings. Once you disturb it, however, is when it becomes dangerous. What this means is that you shouldn’t tamper with building rubble in case it’s present.
If you plan on carrying out renovations, your home is starting to show wear and tear or you simply want peace of mind knowing that your home is free of asbestos then it’s a good idea to look into carrying out a survey. When looking for asbestos services, make sure you choose a UKAS accredited company such as EDP, to ensure that surveys are being carried out safely. They can come out and locate the risk and assess if any asbestos exists in your home. They are even able to tell if any of the substance is present in the ground which is important if you plan on constructing a new structure on a site.
From here, the company can provide a detailed plan on how to get rid of the substance, which is called remediation services. Removing asbestos is something that by law must only be carried out by licensed professionals. It’s an extremely dangerous job and needs to be carried out in the correct manner with appropriate protective tools and clothing. Not only that, it also needs to be disposed of properly once removed. You want to be sure that there are no airborne containments, which are extremely hazardous to health.
Not to be taken lightly
For many property owners in the UK asbestos is, unfortunately, a very real issue about which to be concerned. Knowing whether or not your home contains it, where it may be, and how to get rid of it will ensure the safety of yourself and all others who live in the home.