Read our FAQ page on commonly asked asbestos removal questions. To get to a specific question and answer quickly, then simply click the title of the question below.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a term for a group of six naturally occurring mined silicate materials. These materials are actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, tremolite.
Its name derives from ancient Greek, meaning ‘inextinguishable’, and although asbestos is now banned in the UK due to the dangers is poses, it was used in buildings for insulation, flooring and roofing due to its resistance to heat, fire and electricity, making it a supposed ideal material to enhance the safety of buildings.
Before 1985, all types of asbestos were legal within the UK, and is now most prominent on pipe insulation, building insulation and roofing.
Asbestos use was not fully banned in the UK until 1999, due to the known connection between the material and mesothelioma, a cancer associated with lining of the lungs.
What is ACM?
ACM means ‘Asbestos-Containing Material’ and applies to any material that contains over 1% asbestos.
Asbestos-Containing Materials are only hazardous when inhaled but are directly linked to the cancerous disease, mesothelioma, which is why the use and production of the material is now banned within the UK.
What types of materials is asbestos found in?
Although asbestos was widely used in the building industry for insulation of both pipes and walls, as well as used within roofing materials, it was also widely used for products in other sectors, such as –
- Asbestos cloth, rope and string
- Asbestos cement sheets and roof tiles
- Ceiling Tiles
- Ovens and Furnaces
- Ironing board covers
- Stove-top pads
- Brake-pads and brake-pad linings
- Clutch facings
- Floor Tiles
- Mastics and Sealants
- Toilet cisterns
- Posts and fencing
Read our guide on where asbestos could be found in an industrial property, here.
Can I collect my own asbestos sample and test it myself?
Asbestos is directly linked to mesothelioma when inhaled, so we would never recommend that you test for asbestos unless you are an accredited professional, but testing for asbestos does not require an asbestos licence.
UKAS accredited asbestos testing kits are available for purchase. Once you have collected your sample with your testing kit, you will need to send it to a laboratory for testing. When you purchase your testing kit it may include the lab fee, but not all kits include this fee, so it is worth checking when you are purchasing one to keep the cost as low as possible.
UKAS has a useful page for finding an accredited lab.
What PPE clothing do we use when removing asbestos?
When removing Asbestos-Containing Material there is a high likelihood that fibres will break off and move around the local area, which means that specific safety equipment is needed to protect those working within the area in and around the asbestos.
The overalls we use are designed to be dust proof. We use Type 5/6 that comply with EN 13034, EN ISO 13982, EN 1073 and EN 1149.
These overalls should cover footwear and be taped at the wrists to ensure asbestos fibres don’t get underneath and attach themselves to our clothes.
We only use disposable single use gloves, although gloves are not mandatory for our staff to wear.
We use toe capped rubber boots that have no laces and protect the feet if heavy objects are dropped on them. As the boots we use are rubber and have no laces, it makes them easier to clean to prevent the movement of asbestos within the air.
Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)
This is the most important aspect of the PPE clothing that we wear, as it protects our staff from inhaling asbestos fibres leading to potential respiratory disease.
The RPE equipment we use has a UK assigned protection factor of a minimum of 20.
Our workers select equipment that is most suitable for them and fits them suitably. Our staff can use half-mask respirators (to standard EN 140) that have a P3 filter, for lower risk non-licensed works. For working with the higher risk licensable materials, we wear full-faced powered respirators that comply with EN147 (TMP3).
Will I need a risk assessment before starting work on asbestos removal?
Yes, before any work can be carried out on asbestos, a risk assessment must be carried out.
A risk assessment has to be carried out by a competent asbestos expert who has knowledge and expertise of asbestos.
The risk assessment should be carried out at an early enough stage to ensure that the necessary precautions can be put in place before the asbestos removal is carried out.
Asbestos risk assessments are carried out to –
- Control the risk of working with asbestos.
- Establish alternative risks, such as working at height or other dangerous scenarios and provide solutions to reduce those risks, to ensure there is a safe working environment.
- Inform the workers about the risks involved and provide any other findings from the assessment.
The risk assessment should include-
- The volume of asbestos.
- The type/s of asbestos that will be removed.
- Details of the types of controls that will be put in place to reduce exposure of the asbestos to a minimum.
- Detail of what decontamination procedures will be in place during the removal of the asbestos.
- Information on where the asbestos waste will be managed
- Information on what procedures must be followed in the event of an emergency.
What are the health risks of asbestos?
Asbestos becomes a huge health risk when it is breathed into the lungs at larger than normal volumes (most people inhale small amounts of asbestos all the time), which can cause asbestosis and mesothelioma. The more asbestos that is breathed into the lungs, the bigger the risks become of contracting these diseases.
Generally, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, however the effects of inhaling asbestos don’t appear for 20 to 30 years.
What is asbestosis?
Asbestosis doesn’t usually present itself until around 20-30 years after a considerable dose of asbestos has been breathed into the lungs, which causes a scarring of the lungs. This scarring causes a gradual hardening and shrinking of the lungs, which results in them not being able to hold as much air as they used to.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer that grows within the pleural membrane, which is a space between the lining of the lungs and the inside of the ribs.
As the cancer cells develop it causes the pleural membrane to thicken, making it harder to breathe.
Is asbestos dangerous to touch?
Asbestos and asbestos-containing materials are not considered a danger to health unless the asbestos fibres are airborne, where they can be inhaled into the lungs.
Asbestos that is left untouched and in a good condition can be considered to not pose a danger to health.
Is a single exposure to asbestos harmful?
There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Much of the asbestos that is inhaled gets caught within the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, preventing it from reaching the lungs, where it becomes a danger to our health. The diseases that are related to asbestos, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma don’t occur until a number of years after exposure to asbestos.
To find out more about the health dangers of asbestos, read our guide here.
"BLS Asbestos provide a professional and quality service enabling Hanover to deal with issues arising from the management of asbestos in compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006."
Asbestos Removal from Social Housing for Hanover Housing