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Asbestos: Home Buyers and Renovators Beware

Updated: Jun 14, 2018

Nowadays, there are so many T.V. shows, bloggers and magazines idealising the dream home and inspiring us to get out the sledge hammer and smash out the chimney or rip up the old floor in order to get the perfect living space. DIY and home renovation is big business but what’s not highlighted as often in these shows or your local hardware store is the danger of exposing yourself to deadly asbestos fibres in the process.

Let’s face it, would you know where to find asbestos or what it looks like around the home? You may think that you have an idea but if I’d had a penny each time I’ve turned up on site to begin my asbestos survey and been told; ‘There’s no asbestos here!’ mostly by retired industry workers, janitors or builders. The problem is that asbestos was used in thousands of products from insulation on pipes, to the small bitumen pad under your sink. So unless you are a qualified and experienced asbestos surveyor then you may have disturbed it unwittingly. Check out the HSE site for an idea where it is most likely found

What is Asbestos and why is it Dangerous?

Asbestos is naturally occurring silicate mineral which was mined commercially and predominantly for its fire resistant properties but also has useful traits like durability, flexibility, low thermal conductivity, resistant to chemical attack, as well as acoustic insulation. It could also be used as cheap bulk filler in many items, because of this it was used in thousands of different product types. There are 6 types of asbestos which have all been proven to cause asbestos related diseases. The most common types are chrysotile (white), amosite (brown) and crocidolite (blue).

Shockingly asbestos kills around 5000 people in the U.K. per year, which is more than people killed in road traffic accidents. Majority of those affected are tradespeople like builders and joiners who disturb it unknowingly on renovation projects or had in the past been told it was safe to work with, thankfully we know better than that these days. When disturbed, asbestos has the ability to split in to tiny microscopic respirable fibres that can become airborne and then inhaled through the mouth and nose. The carcinogenic fibres stay in the lungs where it can take 15 – 30 or more years to develop deadly diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. There have also been reported cases where cancers of the intestinal tract have also been linked to ingestion of asbestos fibres possibly through contaminated water.

HSE Hidden killer campaign

So How Do I Know if I Have Asbestos in my Home?

Asbestos was prohibited in 1999, so if your home was built before the year 2000 then it most probably could have. You may have had a homebuyers report that contains a tiny paragraph which reads ‘Asbestos may be present in …’ This is probably not much use as it goes in to very little detail and may not have a sample to prove or disprove. It may not even mention asbestos at all, which certainly does not mean there is no asbestos present. It could be concealed in all manner of ways.

The best way to find out is to have an Asbestos Management Survey carried out, which could be done for a couple of hundred pounds depending on the size and scope. This could give you peace of mind before you decide to buy a house and may even save you cash in the long run.

If there is renovation works being undertaken, then a more in-depth intrusive Refurbishment / Demolition survey is required, which will be consequently covered within the CDM 2015 regulations if a designer / external company is used. This can be targeted to a specific area where the works are to be undertaken, for example a kitchen or bathroom upgrade.

Hope that helps and if you need any further guidance drop me an email or call 07535180419 and I'll be more than happy to help.

Lindsay Johnstone

Director - Almond Environmental Consulting

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