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If asbestos containing materials are in good condition and are unlikely to be disturbed or damaged then it is safer to leave them where they are.
Why may Asbestos be a problem?
When asbestos materials age or become damaged they can release fibres into the air. These can be breathed deep into the lungs where they may stay for a long time, causing possible damage. When sufficient levels of these fibers are breathed in, particularly over an extended period of time, there is a risk of lung diseases, including cancer.
People who have worked with asbestos for many years as part of their job or have washed the dusty clothing of those who worked with asbestos are more likely to be affected. Workplace regulations now protect such people.
Is everyone exposed to asbestos?
A low background concentration of asbestos fiber is common and wide place because of how frequently the material was used over the years, however exposure to this low level of fibers is unlikely to harm people’s health. Levels of fibers may be higher in buildings containing asbestos materials, especially where the materials are not sealed or have become damaged. If in good condition, it is very unlikely that the levels of asbestos fibers found in a building will be harmful, but if you suspect you may have damaged asbestos materials in your home, you should seek us for advice on the appropriate action that will need to be taken.
High exposure to asbestos fibres could potentially occur during DIY work. For this reason, if you suspect that the materials you are considering working upon (even drilling a hole through) contain asbestos, STOP and SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE from Dover District Council (using the link at the bottom of this page).
Where is asbestos found?
Building materials containing asbestos were widely used from 1930 to the mid-1980’s, but particularly from the 1960’s onwards. So houses and flats built or refurbished during this time may contain asbestos materials.
Asbestos has also been used in some heat-resistant household products, such as oven gloves and ironing boards. The use of asbestos in these products decreased greatly around the mid-1980’s, and since 1993 the use of asbestos in most products was banned.
It is not always easy to tell whether a product contains asbestos as modern asbestos-free materials often look similar. Remember – it is usually older products that contain asbestos.
Loft or cavity wall insulation does not typically contain asbestos.
The following drawing shows where asbestos materials are often found. This is not a comprehensive list and only a guide until DDC conduct an asbestos survey to your property and can confirm the findings with you.
The types of asbestos materials that may commonly be found in homes are described below:
- Insulating board (asbestos content 20-45%) Insulating board has been used for fire protection, heat and sound insulation. It is particularly common in 1960’s and 1970’s housing (especially ‘system built’ properties) and is found in materials such as ducts (example: service ducts in kitchens and bathrooms), infill panels, ceiling tiles, wall linings, door linings, panels above doors, bath panels and partitions. It is unlikely to be found in buildings constructed after 1982.
- Lagging (asbestos content 55-100%) Asbestos lagging has been used for thermal insulation of pipes and boilers. It was widely used in public building and system-built flats during the 1960’s to early 1970’s in areas such as boiler houses and heating plants. Asbestos lagging is very rarely found in homes (domestic areas/ rooms), especially those constructed after the mid 1970’s. The use of asbestos thermal insulation was banned in 1986.
- Sprayed coating (asbestos content up to 85%) Sprayed asbestos coatings were used for fire protection of structural steel and are commonly found in system-built flats during the 1960’s. The coatings were mainly applied around the core of the building such as service ducts, lift shafts etc. Sprayed coatings are very rarely found in homes (domestic areas/ rooms). Use stopped in 1974 and the spraying of asbestos has been prohibited since 1986. Sprayed asbestos has since been removed from many buildings, or sealed to prevent fibers being released.
- Asbestos-cement products (asbestos content mainly 10-15%, but sometimes up to 40%) Asbestos-cement was the most widely used asbestos material. It is found in many types of building as profiled sheets for roofing and wall-cladding, in flat sheets and partition boards for linings to walls and ceilings, in bath panels, soffit boards, fire surrounds, flue pipes, cold water tanks and as roofing tiles and slates. It has been commonly used as roofing and cladding for garages and sheds and also in guttering and drainpipes. Its use declined since 1976, and all asbestos-cement products were banned in 1999. Asbestos-cement products are unlikely to release high levels of fibers because of the way they are made, unless they are subject to extreme abrasion, prolonged heat or aging. Damage from weathering may also release a small amount of fibers, for example resulting in accumulated dust within guttering.
- Other buildings, Materials and products. Asbestos has been used in a variety of other building materials, for example, in decorative coatings such as textured paints and plasters (example: Artex to ceilings or walls). These are still widely in place but their supply and application have been prohibited since 1988. Plastic floor tiles, cushion flooring, roofing felts, tapes, ropes, felts, and blankets can also contain asbestos of a varying nature, some more dangerous than others.
- Heating appliances and domestic equipment. Asbestos was used in some warm air heating systems, electric storage heaters (up to 1976), in flameless catalytic gas heaters (up to 1988) and some early ‘coal effect’ gas fires. It has also been used in domestic equipment, such as oven gloves and ironing boards, seals on cooker doors and fire blankets. Asbestos has also been used in brake linings and pads.
How can I identify products or materials containing asbestos?
Since 1976, British manufacturers have put labels on their products to show they contain asbestos, and since 1986 all products containing asbestos carry the European label. However it must be remembered that these labels may have been removed, painted over or have faded over time and cannot be relied upon in all cases. The supplier or manufacturer of a product may be able to confirm if it contains asbestos, but may no longer be contactable.
Remember! Asbestos-containing products can look very similar to those not containing asbestos. Although some materials obviously do not contain asbestos (such as glass, solid wooden doors, floorboards, bricks and stone), you should always presume any material contains asbestos unless there is strong evidence to suggest that it does not.
If in any doubt STOP SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE.
What should I do if I suspect there is asbestos in my home?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), advice is that asbestos materials in good condition, that are not likely to be damaged, disturbed, or worked upon (without special precautions) are usually safer to leave (and manage) in place. Attempts to remove it can potentially lead to higher levels of fibres in the air and for some time.
If you are planning home improvements or maintenance and have asbestos in your home, STOP and SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE from Dover District Council before starting any works. Builders, maintenance workers or contractors must be informed of asbestos in your home before they start work and you are required to notify/ seek permission for alterations from Dover District Council beforehand as part of your tenancy.
Asbestos materials that are damaged or deteriorating can release asbestos fibers and should be safely removed by competent persons. In the majority of cases, depending on the type of asbestos involved, these persons will need to be approved by the Government and hold a special licence. The suspect material will need to be tested first to find out who is adequately qualified to safely remove it. All contractors are required to follow strictly regulations and have suitable training and equipment to ensure any form of asbestos is removed safely. SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE from us in order we can carry out these checks and then arrange for the asbestos to by remove by a Licenced, or otherwise appropriately qualified, contractor as necessary. Sometimes it is also dangerous to have asbestos materials removed – for instance, fire-protection materials – without replacing them with a suitable alternative.
- Presume all suspect materials contain asbestos until proven otherwise;
- Avoid disturbing or damaging any asbestos materials (regardless of condition); and
- If you suspect you have damaged or deteriorating asbestos in your home then STOP and SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE from us without delay.
Take care when doing DIY
- If you have/ suspect you may have asbestos materials in your home, extra care should be taken when doing DIY near asbestos containing materials. DO NOT attempt work involving any asbestos containing materials or products, as this must be undertaken by a licensed asbestos contractor. If in doubt, SEEK ADVICE from us first. Similarly, if you are planning to undertake decoration of asbestos containing materials (including Artex), STOP and SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE from us before commencing.
- Avoid creating asbestos dust.
- Avoid breathing any suspected asbestos dust and evacuate the area.
- Asbestos material in good condition should be left alone.
- If you think you may have asbestos-containing products in your house, STOP and SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE from us before you take action.