Asbestos in buildings
Last Updated on 8 August 2023
Older buildings and property are likely to contain asbestos
How often do we find asbestos in buildings and property? The answer is probably more often than you think…
As an independent asbestos surveying company for over 30 years, we broadly find asbestos in 90% of all buildings and properties that we survey.
That’s generally the same for both domestic and commercial properties.
Any industrial or residential building constructed or renovated prior to the year 2000 can contain asbestos. You might encounter it while working with many of the typical materials used in the construction industry.
Over 4000 asbestos products were used in domestic and commercial properties throughout the UK.
These products started appearing in the early 1900’s. However, from after the second world war, from the 1950’s until the 1970’s, asbestos products were used in the majority of properties in the UK.
The frequency of use started to reduce until late 1999 when all asbestos use was banned in the UK.
You might need to conduct an asbestos survey to find any probable asbestos-containing elements in a property that you own or manage.
An asbestos survey is performed to assist in managing asbestos on your property. Its purpose is to give precise details about the presence, quantity, and state of asbestos-containing materials.
What type of asbestos is used in buildings?
Many asbestos products that were installed in buildings are still present today, despite the fact we have been removing asbestos for 40 years.
When dealing with older properties and materials, you will most likely come into contact with the three primary forms of asbestos that were utilised in construction: crocidolite, amosite, and chrysotile.
The form of asbestos known as chrysotile, sometimes referred to as white asbestos, is the type of asbestos that is most frequently discovered in buildings. It has also been utilised in the making of cement, roofing materials, building insulation, and brake pad linings and gasket sealants for vehicles. Chrysolite will make up 95% of any asbestos discovered in properties.
Chrysolite asbestos fibres are more flexible than the majority of other varieties and are often white in colour, however they can also be green, grey, or yellow. The term “curly asbestos” was coined to describe the fibres’ length, fineness, and propensity to curl in on themselves.
As a general rule, asbestos in commercial and domestic properties is most likely to be in those constructed between the 1950’s and the early 1980’s.
As we moved through the 1990’s, the amount of asbestos used in construction started to drop off significantly, and it is rarely found in buildings constructed after the year 2000.
Managing any asbestos in buildings
Any asbestos in buildings must be managed and re-inspected on a regular basis, or at least annually according to HSE Guidance.
And any pre 2000 build property (domestic or commercial) which is being refurbished, by law must have a more detailed ‘refurbishment/demolition asbestos survey‘.
In the UK, the law on asbestos (Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012) makes it mandatory for all commercial premises built prior to 1999 to hold an asbestos management plan.
This management plan is produced once you have an adequate asbestos survey conforming to HSG 264 standards.
It’s important to note that If you are buying, selling or renting property that you will need to be aware of asbestos and its possible presence.
Should you rent commercial property, then it’s likely you will have the responsibility to look after and manage the asbestos as part of the lease agreement.
If you are a contractor, then before you commence work on any type of property (built pre 2000) you should have an appropriate asbestos survey in place.
You are not legally allowed to work on asbestos products unless you hold a license or are specially trained.
The effects of asbestos on health
Asbestos is still the biggest ‘work related’ cause of death in the UK each year, with over 5000 people dying from its effects.
Mesothelioma and Asbestosis are the two major causes of death, and these are caused by breathing in asbestos fibres that have generally been disturbed by you, or those around you.
The layers of tissue that cover each lung are where mesothelioma most frequently begins (the pleura).
Unfortunately, because mesothelioma is frequently discovered when it is advanced, it can be exceedingly challenging to cure. The type and stage of your mesothelioma will determine the treatment you receive.
Several distinct variables are necessary for survival. Nobody is able to predict your exact life expectancy.
Asbestosis is a degenerative condition for which there is no cure, but you can live with it for years. Patients with asbestosis have an average lifespan of 10 years.
The best long-term treatment for asbestosis is lung transplantation, however only a small number of individuals are eligible for this risky procedure.
Contractors are most likely to be the ones affected by asbestos due to the destructive nature of some of their work when refurbishing property.
It takes many years after exposure for signs of asbestos disease to manifest
However, it’s important to note that each and every person inhales minute amounts of asbestos fibres without experiencing any negative effects. The majority of people regularly come into contact with relatively low levels of asbestos and do not experience any adverse health effects as a result.
However, people who have been exposed to large amounts of asbestos over a long period of time may find that many years after the exposure (20-30 years typically) that the signs of asbestos-related diseases may start to make an appearance.
In this instance, a doctor should be consulted immediately if any of the following symptoms appear: breathlessness, wheezing, hoarseness or a recurring cough that worsens with time.
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We don’t remove asbestos to avoid any conflicts of interest, but we can assist with this process also should it be a requirement.
Asbestos in buildings and property is generally very common, and we here at RB Asbestos Consultants can help with advice, asbestos awareness training, surveys etc.