In this week’s blog, the topic of discussion will be asbestos and its risks and dangers. In my personal opinion, the dangers and risks of this once globally used fire retardant material is largely overlooked not only by the general public but also by industry professionals.
Although the most dangerous forms of asbestos were banned in 1975 in the UK and Chrysotile in 1999, it still poses a risk to the health of the public and industry professionals.
What is Asbestos and what are the different types?
Asbestos is a set of minerals which are naturally occurring from within the Earth and once widely used on a global scale due to its heat resistant qualities.
The 3 main types of asbestos are Chrysotile; this is also known as ‘white asbestos’ and was commonly used in building materials where it was mixed with cement as it would strengthen the formula whilst adding heat resistant benefits. Usually, approximately 10% of Chrysotile asbestos would be mixed with cement as a solution.
You would commonly find this type of asbestos in ceilings, corrugated cement sheets, cement tiles and more. Although all forms of asbestos are hazardous, Chrysotile is seen as the least toxic form, this is because when placed under a microscope, Chrysotile fibres would appear somewhat curly where as other forms of asbestos such as Amosite or Tremolite appear to take the shape of a ‘spear’. The human body is therefore more able to deal with curly Chrysotile fibres.
Asbestos garage roof with Chrysotile ‘White’ asbestos
Surveyors and Asbestos
In my role as a Surveyor, it is common to come across asbestos due to its popularity in the 20th century where the dangers of asbestos were not as widely known as it is today.
A common place where asbestos might be found is within lofts or garage roofs. During the post war period, asbestos would be used as an insulating material within lofts where the material would be loosely filled onto the surface area of the loft.
This type of asbestos is also one of the most dangerous due to the fact it is loose and therefore highly fibrous. Surveyors must take duty of care towards themselves and their clients when dealing with this material. When entering places where asbestos is present, it must not be disturbed as that would then release fibres into the air which can be easily breathed in.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) gives clear guidelines on how to deal with asbestos and only asbestos specialists should manage this material on site.
In my opinion, the management and dangers of asbestos is overlooked and therefore this can pose a risk to the public who may come into contact with it. I believe industry professionals should conduct more educational engagements to inform residents to raise higher awareness.