Asbestos has the potential to pose significant health risks to anyone exposed to it, yet two-thirds of homeowners are not confident in being able to identify it. Would you know what to do? This guide helps you to understand and deal with asbestos and its associated risks.
Why should I be concerned about asbestos?
If you have asbestos in your home, it could pose a health risk if you disturb it. When disturbed, asbestos fibres break down and cause serious health problems if inhaled. This includes lung cancer and other lung diseases such as asbestosis and pleural thickening.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) indicates that around 5,000 people die each year from cancers caused by inhaling asbestos fibres.
However, if it’s in good condition and remains undisturbed, asbestos won’t pose a health risk.
How likely am I to have asbestos in my home?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that was used extensively in the construction industry for most of the 20th century. It’s ultra-resistant and has many useful properties, so it was very popular. It was used to make all kinds of products – from roof and floor tiles, to textured ceiling coatings to kitchen paper.
It was banned in 1999 due to the health hazards it creates and is no longer imported into the UK. However, it’s still commonly found in existing buildings constructed or refurbished before 2000.
If your home was built after 2000, you won’t be affected. If your home pre-dates 2000, you may have asbestos present, depending on when your home last underwent refurbishment.
Where might I find it?
You might find asbestos in any of these places, if they have not been replaced or refurbished since 2000:
- Textured coating to walls and ceilings, such as Artex
- Floor tiles
- Insulating board in walls, ceilings and doors
- Panels behind or under heaters
- Bath panels
- Toilet seats and cisterns
- Water tanks and boiler flues
- Roof felt
- Garage roofs
- Guttering and pipe work
- Damp proof course
- Wall cladding
- Fire blankets and fire doors
- Baking paper and cardboard
How do I identify asbestos?
These diagrams on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website show areas and materials where asbestos can commonly be found within a residential property.
To identify and confirm the presence of asbestos, get a survey done by a competent and qualified surveyor. To be ‘competent’, the surveyor must:
- have sufficient training, qualifications, knowledge, experience and ability to carry out their duties in relation to the survey and to recognise their limitations
- have sufficient knowledge of the specific tasks to be undertaken and the risks which the work will entail
- be able to demonstrate independence, impartiality and integrity
- have an adequate quality management system and
- carry out the survey in accordance with recommended guidance.
The HSE strongly recommends the use of accredited or certificated surveyors for asbestos surveys. At Sarrani we work only with experienced and accredited asbestos surveyors.
I think I have asbestos in my home. What should I do?
If you suspect asbestos is present in your home, do not try to remove or repair it yourself. Seek advice from a licensed professional. Contact the environmental health department at your local council or speak to us at Sarrani. We work with experienced, accredited asbestos consultants who can carry out a survey for you and arrange repair or removal if necessary.
Where asbestos containing materials are in good condition and unlikely to get damaged, it’s a good idea to leave them where they are. Have them checked from time to time, to ensure they haven’t deteriorated. If they have deteriorated, they can be repaired or removed by a contractor licensed to work with asbestos.
Be aware that, if you have asbestos containing materials removed, they must be disposed of properly, as hazardous waste. You must not put them in your normal household bin. Again, Sarrani or your local council environmental health can advise on safe disposal.
Asbestos and DIY
If you are doing any DIY or simply hanging up a picture or screwing fixings into a wall that has asbestos containing materials, you could cause a disturbance and therefore a health hazard.
- Do not drill, saw, scrub or sand any materials you think may contain asbestos
- Take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos materials or asbestos containing products
- Do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
Am I legally obliged to deal with my asbestos?
Legislation currently only exists for non-domestic properties. If you are a landlord or manage a commercial property, see our asbestos guide for landlords. However, if you suspect or know that asbestos is present in your home, put steps in place to manage it properly.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, any contractors that come into your home to do work for you are responsible for protecting you from any risks that their work might expose you to.
If this work involves asbestos, the contractors must comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to prevent or reduce the risks of exposure to you. This might mean moving out for a short period while the work is done and the asbestos-containing material removed.
How can Sarrani help?
We work with experienced UKAS accredited asbestos consultants who can undertake the surveys required to identify the location and condition of asbestos. They will also provide support and advice on managing asbestos risks and removing asbestos containing materials, to ensure you and your home remain safe.
For more information on how we can help you identify and manage asbestos in your home, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 3006 3126.