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Asbestos is a hazardous substance. The following notes give some guidance on how to deal with asbestos in the home.

Asbestos in the home?
Common locations of asbestos in the home?
What to do with asbestos found in the home?
Safe removal of cement bonded asbestos (garage & shed rooves/cladding)?
Disposal of cement asbestos material?

What is asbestos? (Free Asbestos Leaflets)

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been known about since ancient times. Its commercial use began some 150 years ago when a large deposit of chrysotile was found in Canada.

There are various forms of asbestos but the following three main types have been used commercially:

  • crocidolite - 'blue asbestos'          
  • amosite - 'brown asbestos'
  • chrysotile - 'white asbestos

Blue and brown asbestos (the amphiboles) are significantly more hazardous than white asbestos, but white asbestos is still a category 1 carcinogen and presents a real risk to health. You cannot determine the varying types just by their colour hence the need for laboratory analysis as an essential element in the identification process.

The less common forms of asbestos such as fibrous actinolite, fibrous anthophyllite and fibrous tremolite (all amphiboles) have also been used in building materials.

The properties and versatility of asbestos made it an excellent building material and it was widely used between 1950 and 1980.  Asbestos fibres have high tensile strength, and are resistant to chemicals, electricity and heat.  Asbestos was used particularly for these properties; either raw (e.g. asbestos textiles and insulation packings) or, more often, combined with other materials (fireproofing's, insulations, boards, asbestos cement sheets etc.)

Add to all of this the facts that asbestos is highly resilient, non-degradable and was cheap; it is not surprising that it was used so widely.  However, unfortunately it can also be deadly!

Key Message:

Although less hazardous than other forms of asbestos, White Asbestos presents a real health risk.

Asbestos in the Home?

If your property is more than 15 years old, it's possible that it contains materials made from asbestos.

Common locations are listed below but there may be others in your home - so if in doubt leave well alone and seek expert help. .

This advice is aimed at house holders. The HSE have produced a number of leaflets which are more appropriate for businesses and are available on request..

Common Locations of asbestos:

 Asbestos cement on garage or shed roofs.
 Asbestos cement shed and garage wall panels.
 Asbestos cement drain pipes.
 Asbestos cement or Insulation board soffit, infill panels and partitions.
 Asbestos cement on the side of bath panels.

If your home is rented, your landlord may have relevant information.

What to do if you have Asbestos in your home?

 The general rule is to always leave asbestos alone, it's usually safe unless it's damaged or disturbed.
 Paint indoor materials with an alkali resistant paint such as PVA emulsion, and never sand, drill or saw asbestos materials.
 Always seek advice before thinking of removing asbestos and follow the basic rules below if carrying out asbestos cement removal work. Do not attempt to remove asbestos lagging, spray coatings or large areas of Insulation Board by yourself as these materials can only be safely removed by a licensed contractor.
 Sometimes it will be necessary to take a sample, for example to identify the type of asbestos. This will cost about £50.

Safe Asbestos Cement Removal?

Asbestos cement can be safely removed by remembering these basic rules:-

 Prepare the work area - remove any unnecessary items, cover the floor and surfaces with disposable polythene sheeting.
 Wear protective clothing- disposable overall with hood, disposable paper face mask (for use with asbestos) and rubber or disposable gloves.
 Damp down - use a plant sprayer or hosepipe but don't soak the area as this will make cleaning up more difficult.
 Remove the asbestos without breaking it up, wrap in polythene sheeting or bags and seal with tape.
 Visually inspect the area and clear up any debris by hand - wipe down with disposable damp clothes. Never use a vacuum cleaner as this will just spread dust around.
 Pick up polythene sheeting and remove protective clothing and dispose of both as asbestos waste.
 Wash hands and face after the job is completed.

Disposal of Asbestos Waste?

If as a house holder, you intend to transport asbestos cement waste in your own vehicle, you do not need to be a registered carrier provided that it is your own waste.

However, you should take the following steps to ensure that asbestos does not contaminate your car: 
Spray sheets of asbestos cement with water.
Double wrap or double bag the asbestos cement with heavy duty polythene.
Ensure the wrapping is secured with tape.
Make sure vehicle occupants do not have access to the asbestos waste.

Asbestos waste disposal enquiries - please contact Devon County Council Customer Call Centre on 0345 155 1010. 

Devon County Council will accept up to six sheets (6ftx3ft) or six bags of cement bonded asbestos from householders only in any 12 month period. This must be booked through the Customer Call Centre. The centre will tell the householder where to find the closest recycling centre that will accept the asbestos. For health, safety and environmental reasons, the asbestos will only be accepted if double wrapped in strong plastic and sealed.

Asbestos Do's and Don'ts?

 Don't panic if you think you have asbestos in your home - it's usually only a problem if it's disturbed.
 Do treat asbestos with respect.
 Don't drill, saw or disturb materials that contain asbestos.
 Do seek advice if you think you've got a problem with asbestos in your home.