Asbestos The Dangers

Published: 31st August 2010
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Found in many older buildings, its safe removal and disposal is a must. But how do you spot it, and what do you do with it once it's found?
What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is made up of long, thin fibrous crystals. It is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that was used extensively in homes, offices, garages and other buildings during the 1950s to the mid-1980s primarily because of its resistance to heat, its sound insulation properties and its strength.
Where Would I Find It?
Asbestos was used in a great many products and materials, such as cement, insulation boards, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roofs, panels, laggings and pipes. Don't just assume that because your house pre-dates the 1950s that it won't be in there, too. Renovations done during the 1950s onwards on older houses may well have included asbestos as a material.
Why Is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos is dangerous if you breathe in high levels of asbestos fibres, if you are working on or near damaged asbestos, or if you are exposed to low levels of it long term. If you suspect you are working in area where there may be asbestos, or you come across a material that you believe may be asbestos, stop working and seek advice. Asbestos is generally not dangerous if it lies undisturbed or has not perished, cracked or chipped.
Where Is Asbestos Found?
The HSE recommends a cautious approach should be taken when working on any building pre-2000.

* Asbestos cement found in roofs, wall cladding, downpipes and gutters, flues and ventilation systems.
* Textured coatings.
* Floor tiles, textiles and composites found under carpets, fuse boxes, under tiles and inside metal cladding.
* Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) - partition walls, fire-proofing panels in fire doors, lift shaft linings, ceiling tiles, panels below windows.
* Loose fill asbestos - found in between cavity walls, under floorboards and in loft spaces.
Should I Go Looking For It?
Its not advisable to go looking for asbestos unless you believe it has been used and may have perished or be unsafe, because undisturbed asbestos usually poses no problems. Often, and a major reason why people often dont know they have been exposed to it, it is difficult to tell the difference between asbestos insulating board items and non-asbestos materials, such as wall panels boards, ceiling tiles and plasterboard.
What if you do find asbestos? How do you dispose of it?
Firstly, if you are suspicious that something may be asbestos, simply dont begin to work on it. Even if you are not suspicious, use protective equipment, including a suitable face mask, worn properly, when you are tackling demolition jobs. Wear a disposable overall, wash thoroughly and often, particularly your hands and face. Never sand, drill or saw asbestos materials.
How Do I Dispose Of Asbestos?
Never just chuck it in a skip. Make sure you double bag debris and dispose of it properly at a licensed tip. Your local council has advice on whether or not it will allow the disposal of asbestos, and which type of asbestos products it may accept.
Is There Any Professional Help I Can Call On?
Contact the Health and Safety Executive infoline, 0845 345 0055, for general advice on asbestos. Your council will also advise you on what to do if you think that asbestos may be present in your home or place of work.

Article written by Simon Head who is the Managing Director of Cooper James Consultancy Ltd a Project Management Firm based in Newport South Wales. He is an enthusiastic, self motivated person. Excellent in problem solving because of his engineering background and wide experiences in life. Excellent communication skills on all levels from talking to the client, design team and work force. Being able to deal with all situations. He has taken this ability and built his company on this.

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