If your home was built prior to 1990, it is possible that it may contain materials made from or containing asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of strong fibres which are resistant to heat and chemicals. For these reasons it was used in a wide variety of building materials and products often to provide fire-proofing.
Asbestos was used in the following products:-
- Soffits (underside of eaves)
- Eaves gutters and rainwater down pipes
- Soil vent pipe
- Flue pipes
- Garage and shed roofs
- Storage radiators
- Floor tiles
- Ironing boards
- Ceiling finishes
- Fire blankets
- Linings for walls, ceilings and doors (often in boiler cupboard).
Why Asbestos is a Problem
Low amounts of asbestos is present in the air and causes no ill effects to the general population. However, exposure to higher concentrations over a period of time can cause serious lung disease, including cancer. The ill effects of asbestos exposures often do not appear until 20 to 30 years after the exposure.
If you think you have asbestos in your home
- Do not panic – unless the asbestos is damaged or disturbed it is safe to leave it in place. Remember it is there for a reason – removing asbestos fire-proofing and not replacing it is probably far more of a hazard than leaving the asbestos in place.
- Where possible, repair and then protect any damaged asbestos materials ensuring that the repair or sealing is durable and not likely to be disturbed.
- Never sand,drill or saw asbestos materials.
- Only remove asbestos if repair is not possible or the material is likely to be disturbed.
- Always seek professional advice before thinking of removing asbestos materials.
Covering up asbestos to make it safe
You can use paint, wallpaper or adhesive to coat asbestos so that it cannot release dust. Here are some options:-
- Prime with an alkali resistant primer then apply emulsion or glass paint. Do not sand or scrape before pointing.
- Cover sheet materials with wallpaper (fixed with strong adhesive) or hardboard.
- Paint with bitumastic paint.
- Seal with PVA adhesive.
If you hire a tradesperson to remove asbestos from your home check that they have the proper training and equipment to do this.
If you choose to remove asbestos materials yourself make sure you wear the correct personal protective equipment. This includes a dust mask approved for asbestos and a disposable overall – see HSE guidance for more detail.
You should also take the following precautions:-
- Keep other people away from the working area.
- Wet the material well with water containing a little washing up liquid (check for electrical hazards first).
- Always remove whole sheets or components – do not break them up.
- Place any loose or small items in strong plastic bags and seal.
- Clean up all dust with a damp cloth and then seal it in a plastic bag whilst still damp.
- Do not use a domestic vacuum cleaner as dust may pass through the filter.
Disposing of asbestos
Asbestos is classed as hazardous waste and should not be placed in your dustbin. Small amounts of asbestos waste may be disposed at the Civic Amenity Site – Ilkeston Household Waste Recycling Centre, Manners Avenue Industrial Estate, Ilkeston, Derbyshire DE7 8EF. Please telephone before visiting on 0115 9440105.
Further information may also be accessed via the Health & Safety Executive.