Although asbestos was banned for use in new products and construction in the UK in 1999 it still remains in many building across the country to date. So, the question is: is asbestos still a risk in the UK?
Asbestos was once the building material of choice. It was cost effective, a good insulator of heat and could take the place of more expensive materials such as wood, plastic and metal. After WWII the population grew exponentially and this put pressure on local authorities to build more schools, hospitals and homes meant that they were forced to look at ways to build quickly while keeping costs as low as possible. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM’s) were seen as the answer and was used for decades within the construction industry.
By the early 1960s it was proven that exposure to asbestos fibres produced from drilling, scraping and breaking ACM’s were resulting in humans developing cancers such as mesothelioma. Asbestos is now responsible for over 5000 deaths per year.
Where is asbestos found?
Despite being banned in November 1999 in the UK, many buildings still contain asbestos containing materials and some of these can be hidden in places that the general public may not appreciate. A good example of such a material is textured coating commonly known as Artex. Artex was an extremely popular decorating material used through the 1970s and 80s and was used on ceilings and walls in thousands of British homes until the company stopped using asbestos in its products in the mid-1980s. It still remains in many homes today. Asbestos containing Artex
removal is a hazardous process as scraping the material can result in asbestos fibres being released into the atmosphere.
Another common asbestos containing material in building is corrugated asbestos cement roofing sheets which can still be found in many garage and outbuildings. In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by the BBC, it was revealed that more than 200 of the 302 state schools in the county of Gloucestershire alone could contain the material.
Are there any safe forms of asbestos?
No. It’s untrue that some forms of asbestos are safe and all forms of asbestos should be handled in a safe manner. Always exercise caution when dealing with asbestos.
Left undisturbed asbestos is generally safe. However, you may not always know where ACM’s are contained and you should always exercise caution when undertaking and demolition or renovation projects.
Asbestos is a deadly substance. Get the advice of a professional asbestos management contractor if you are in any doubt.