Identifying Asbestos in the Home

Asbestos isn’t a modern material. It was first used by the Egyptians to embalm their dead and more recently in building materials from which its carcinogenic effects are being felt some 30 years after exposure.

The material has been used in building and electrical insulation, made popular due to its fire resistant properties. Asbestos has been illegal since 2000, but still exists in many properties built or renovated before this time. It isn’t dangerous unless it is disturbed and inhaled. If it is disturbed however, the risk isn’t just to those who are present when the asbestos dust is released — the invisible particles can stick to clothing and put other colleagues and family members at risk.

asbestos in the home Source: Survey Asbestos

The fibres can cause a number of different illnesses including terminal chest cancer and every week on average 20 tradesmen die in the UK from exposure, making it the single greatest cause of work-related deaths.

The British Lung Foundation has launched ‘Take 5 and Stay Alive’, a campaign designed to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos amongst tradesmen. Their research has shown that there’s a lack of information and training amongst small companies and sole traders, workers don’t always see it as a big risk and worry about losing jobs or money. Others don’t know how to identify asbestos and what to do if they find it.

The Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to ensure tradesmen have the knowledge to act safely and responsibly, making sure they can identify asbestos and assess whether they have the training and equipment to deal with it safely.

  • Every week 6 electricians die from this hidden killer
  • Every week 4 plumbers die
  • Every week 8 joiners die
  • Most mesothelioma deaths occurring now are a result of the typically long latency period – 30/40 years
  • The worst case predictions for males are that annual deaths will increase to a peak of about 2100 around the year 2016

Source: HSE

Identifying asbestos in the home

Asbestos was commonly used in building materials between the1930s and 1980s. Common places to find asbestos in the home are: insulation boards from the 60s and 70s; asbestos lagging used to insulate pipes in public buildings and system-built flats, again built in the 60s/70s; spray coated structural steel (to make it fire resistant); certain types of cement; and some heating appliances up until 1988.

asbestos in homes Source: The Nifty Fifties

If you discover asbestos

Materials containing asbestos that are in good condition and can not easily be damaged should be left alone, as removing them can cause more particles to be released which remain in the air for some time. If the materials are slightly damaged they can be repaired by enclosing the area with specialist paint/sealant. If the asbestos is badly damaged it should be removed to prevent it from releasing dust.

You should always inform tradesmen if you have asbestos when undertaking home improvements so they can take appropriate precautions and hire someone with appropriate qualifications to remove the asbestos properly and safely. If you suspect you have asbestos in your home you can arrange for it to be tested and removed by a government approved asbestos remover, find an approved Abestos Licence Holder here.

Do you suspect there is asbestos in your home? Post your job on Rated People, clearly stating your suspicions and up to three specialist tradesmen will get in touch to quote on your job. You’ll be able to view their individual profiles, complete with previous customer recommendations, to help you decide who to hire.

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4 comments

  1. Hi, I Mis any mentioning of asbestos in flooring !
    I worked for the manufacturer : forbo marmoleum in holland and did assessment for them for years.
    Done a lot of work here and the floor asbestos awareness here in the uk ( also rated people jobs is low )

    I’ve been thinking for years that rated people should set up a trade assesing scheme, where somebody goes in and does a half day assesing the trader. And give them a extra rating, payd by the trader..
    Interested to discuss..
    I will leave flooring fitting, hopefully soon as my knees are knackered after 20 years.

    Huge fan of rated people, keep up the good work !!
    Cheers,
    Ralph

    1. Hi Ralph –
      Yes you’re right asbestos is in flooring too – it’s in so many products!
      That is a good idea, we are currently working on improving our sign up process to implement more checks.
      Hope your knees hold up for a bit longer. We’re very pleased to hear that you like our service 🙂

  2. Asbestos is difficult to detect unless you make it your business – pre 1985 it was used in artex coverings for ceilings and walls, also used in early marley tiles normally found welded to concrete floors in older houses, These are very low risk and can be disposed of however specific caution needs to be exercised . These products should be tested if in doubt , before just removing them.

  3. from experience it is difficult to know if you got asbestos unless you already got a test or survey done, or you are trained inknowing what to look out for, the best thing to do especially if you like me and you live in london is to get a cheap Asbestos test done the asbestos test will cos tless than £100 and will be checked it a licence lab.

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