Asbestos is a type of fibrous material which was commonly used in construction in the late 19th century. It is made of naturally occurring silicate minerals, and the material was very desirable in construction because it is resistant to fire and heat, and also to electrical and chemical damage. It also has excellent sound absorption and insulation properties.
Unfortunately, the inhalation of the tiny fibers within this material has been linked to many serious health problems such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis which is a specific type of pneumoconiosis. Since these health repercussions were revealed, the European Union has banned the use of asbestos in all construction projects.
Is There Asbestos in My Home?
During the period of time from 1930 until 1980, asbestos was widely used in most building projects, so if your house or flat was built or renovated during these years it might contain asbestos. If the home was built after 1993, most asbestos products will have been banned and it is unlikely to contain the material.
Where Will I Find It?
If there is asbestos in your home, it will likely be in one of these types of materials:
- Insulating board (found in ceiling tiles, walls, and partitions)
- Asbestos lagging (used for insulation of pipes and boilers)
- Asbestos Cement (used in guttering, drainpipes, and as cladding for sheds)
- Decorative plasters and textured paints
- Heating appliances and domestic equipment such as oven gloves, ironing boards, etc.
How Can I Tell if Something Contains Asbestos?
The first step is to check the label. If it was manufactured after 1976, it will be identified on the label as containing asbestos. If you cannot find a label, call the supplier or the manufacturer and ask them about the specific product. You can also contact the Council’s Environmental Health Department.
If the asbestos materials that you have found are in good condition and are not at risk of being damaged, they might be best left where they are. Removing them could result in much higher levels of asbestos fibres in the air. However, it is important to keep checking on the condition of these asbestos products in case they become damaged and start to release their fibres. If you will be performing a home renovation, always inform the builders before they start work that there is asbestos in the home so that they can take the necessary safety precautions. If you are doing the work yourself, do not drill, sand, or cut the asbestos material unless absolutely necessary. Wear a dust mask to avoid breathing in the dust. To dispose of any asbestos material, wet it and place it in a strong plastic bag, sealed tightly and labelled “Asbestos”. Take these bags to your Household Waste Depot, and wash all clothing straight away in a washing machine separate from any other clothes.
Never try to do the work yourself if it involves sprayed asbestos, lagging or insulating boards. There are a few ways of dealing with these asbestos materials. The first is to spray them with a specialist sealant which will enclose the material. However, if the asbestos material is too damaged you will need to remove it. You should contact a contractor with an approved license from the government, who will know the proper regulations for ensuring that the asbestos is completely and safely removed. If the material was performing a function such as a fire-retardant, you will need to replace it with a safer alternative.
Take extra care to protect yourself against the dangers of asbestos when performing home renovations!