December 21, 2011

Common Asbestos Products in the Home

I intend to discuss the different types of asbestos products and where they may be found in residential properties. It should be considered that in the UK, housing stock still has a large amount of asbestos products present throughout. From textured coatings to cement boiler flues to floor tiles. The HSE recently suggested over 2.4 million homes contained some asbestos products.
On the legal and duty of care issues, it should be pointed out that until proved otherwise all suspect materials should be considered to be asbestos. When any works to a building or part thereof, are to be carried out, a refurbishment or demolition survey is a legal requirement. This survey should identify all asbestos containing materials present and recommend any further action to be taken.
Asbestos Insulation Board. 
This material was mainly used in fire protection, such as in heater cupboards, but is also commonly found in ceiling tiles, partition walls and fireproof panels for fire doors. It can be difficult to spot this type of asbestos as it can look very much like "ordinary" ceiling tiles and partitioning or plasterboard. This is also a highly dangerous material as when broken or disturbed it can easily release fibres. The HSE will allow only very minor works to be carried out to this material. But it is recommended that only license contractors work with this material.
Loose fill asbestos insulation. 
This material was used to insulate in between cavity walls, floorboards and lofts. This material is usually pure asbestos and maybe grey or whitish in colour. It is a fluffy type of material. A large volume of fibres can be released when disturbed and work on this material is by licensed contractors only.
Asbestos cement products. 
This material was used in anything from roofing sheets, guttering and downpipes. Boiler flues and wall cladding. The asbestos has been mixed with cement which does help to prevent dispersal of fibres. A common use was as garage roofs. You do not need a licensed asbestos contractor to work with asbestos cement products as long as you do not exceed control limits. A risk assessment will highlight if the works are likely to exceed the control limits.
Textured coatings. 
This is usually a decorative paint or plaster finish and can be commonly know as "Artex". More often than not these materials will also have been painted over. The danger can be limited as the material is contained but easy release is achieved if sanded down. This must be avoided. Textured coatings have in the past also been applied over the top of asbestos insulation board. Therefore care must still be taken when dealing with this material. You do not need to be a licensed asbestos contractor to work with these materials. You will however need to erect a two stage airlock, and use negative pressure unit as well as the correct PPE.
Floor tiles, toilet cisterns and textiles. 
Vinyl floor tiles can have an asbestos content and can be found under carpet. Composite asbestos products have included toilet cisterns and seats, window sills and bath panels. For the tiles and composite products it may be a question of how long they have been in situ as to whether they contain asbestos. Asbestos textiles can be found behind older fuse boxes.
Asbestos spray coatings. 
This material is found on the underside of ceilings and floors, as fire protection to steelwork and concrete. Considered as one of the most dangerous of the asbestos materials due to the high volume of fibres that can be released when disturbed. Only licensed asbestos contractors may work with this product.
This list is not comprehensive but does cover some of the main products that you may find. It should always be remembered that asbestos was still being used in building products up to the year 2000. If the material is suspect, you must treat it as asbestos. You cannot determine if a product has asbestos content by a visual inspection. The sample must be viewed in a laboratory