Asbestos is the collective term given to a group of silicate materials that has a very thin and long crystal structure. At one time, it was one of the most popular components of building materials due to its excellent electrical and heat insulating ability.
However, when many studies with regards to its harmful effects on the human body began to pop-out, countries started to outright ban the use of it.
According to those studies, being exposed to asbestos can cause a wide range of lung-related problems that can start from simple breathing impairments to full-blown cancer. In some cases this can lead to Stage 3 Mesothelioma, which could result in death.
There is even a disease called asbestosis which is directly caused by the inhalation of asbestos. As of now, there are 67 countries and territories, including the United Kingdom, that had passed laws with regards to the complete ban on the use and production of asbestos.
Despite that, the laws on the complete ban of asbestos in the United Kingdom had only been passed in 1999. Hence, all of the buildings that had already been constructed before that year were most likely built with materials that contain the said harmful substance.
Since these kinds of buildings are prevalent all over the country, deaths that had been directly or indirectly caused by asbestos are still happening and it is estimated that over 5000 individuals die from it every year in Great Britain alone.
Hence, it is very important to equip yourself with the proper knowledge and awareness of the building materials that most likely contain traces of asbestos to keep you and your loved ones safe from harm.
A legitimate asbestos removal company is licensed by the HSE and is fully equipped with the knowledge and tools to be able to do the asbestos removal as safe as possible.
Building materials that may contain asbestos
The following are some of the common materials that may contain traces of asbestos. Since even just a speck of asbestos is considered to be extremely harmful, it is in your best interest to not mess with these materials if you are not a licensed contractor of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Due to its extremely good insulating capability, asbestos was added to sprayed coatings and was applied to the underside of roofs and floors as well as the sides of warehouses and buildings.
Usually, these sprayed coatings are either grey or white in color and have a distinct rough texture when touched.
According to the HSE, it is a highly dangerous building material since it is made of 85% asbestos and could easily crumble even with a simple touch, spreading the asbestos fibres in the air.
Loose-fill is a material that can be found inside the cavity walls, loft spaces, or under floorboards. It usually has a whitish or bluish-grey color and is used to insulate buildings, especially domestic and industrial premises.
Do not let the fluffy appearance of this material fool you. Although it may look like a piece of delicious candy floss, this material is actually made of pure asbestos and simply disturbing it can release countless amounts of asbestos fibers that you can most likely breathe in.
As its name suggests, this material is a mixture of cement and asbestos. Usually, this type of cement has about one part asbestos and two parts cement. In buildings, you will typically see it in the form of roofs, downpipes, and gutters, flues, or wall claddings.
Although modern buildings might already be asbestos-free, you should still take extra precautions especially when you are in the vicinity of a damaged asbestos cement product such as a roof tile that fell off and ended up breaking into pieces.
In such cases, asbestos fibers can easily get airborne and enter your lungs if inhaled.
Lagging and insulation
This type of material is usually applied or painted on pipes of heating systems to offer additional protection and insulation. It is not necessarily white in color which makes it harder to identify.
To be safe, just assume that all the pipework of calorifiers or boilers are applied with it so that you will not disturb or touch it as it can easily crumble as well and spread in the air around you.
Floor tiles, textiles, and composites
Many of the existing old floor tiles usually hidden under the carpet contain traces of asbestos. You can also find traces of asbestos on textiles such as fire blankets or on the back of the actual fuse inside fuse boxes.
Old toilet cisterns and toilet seats will most likely contain it as well. Although there is a low chance of asbestos contamination with those items, you should still consider replacing them once proven that they do contain asbestos since simple abrasions or chipping could release asbestos fibers in the air.
In almost all cases, you should never attempt to remove or disturb the materials that you suspect to contain asbestos by yourself. If you do, you are not only risking your life but the lives of other people as well.
For asbestos removal, you may contact your local authorities or seek out the services of professional companies that offer such services.