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Asbestos - pollution control


Photo of asbestos by Karol Pilch, provided by stock.xchng. This photo links to http://www.sxc.hu/profile/karol91If your property is more than 15 years old, it is possible that it contains materials made from asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made up of many small fibres. 

Asbestos fibres are strong and resistant to heat and chemicals. In the past, this led to their use in a wide range of building materials and products.

Properties built since the mid-1980s are very unlikely to contain asbestos in the fabric of the building. Properties built after 1990 are extremely unlikely to contain asbestos anywhere in the building.

Asbestos cement has been widely used as a cladding material and can still be found in garages and sheds.

Why is asbestos potentially a problem?

All materials containing asbestos can be harmful if fibres are inhaled and could potentially lead to long-term health problems. In recent years a number of alternative or substitute products have been developed.

Day to day exposure to asbestos

The Health and Safety Executive confirms that there is a very low level of fibres in the air everywhere because asbestos has been used so extensively in the past. Exposure to this low level of fibres is unlikely to harm people’s health.

High, short-term exposure to asbestos fibres can occur during do-it-yourself work. For this reason, try not to raise dust when working with materials which might contain asbestos and avoid sanding or drilling. If in doubt, do not touch it.

Where will you find asbestos products or materials in your home?

It is not always easy to tell whether a product contains asbestos, as modern asbestos-free materials often look similar. Remember it is usually older products that contain asbestos.

The following areas and appliances are where asbestos may be found:

  • domestic equipment
  • asbestos lagging
  • warm air heating systems
  • insulating boards
  • sprayed asbestos
  • asbestos cement
  • textured plasters
  • materials for stippling ceilings, walls, etc.

How do you know if a material contains asbestos?

Identifying asbestos products can be difficult but if you think a product contains asbestos but are unsure, the manufacturer or supplier should be able to help you. Alternatively you may need to have it assessed as to whether or not it is asbestos and to see what condition it is in.  Remember, products containing asbestos can look very similar to those not containing asbestos - if in doubt seek advice.

What should you do about asbestos in your home?

Do not panic if you have asbestos materials in your home. Remember, if the asbestos materials are in good condition, removal should not be necessary and disturbance of such materials by non-specialists could in fact cause more risk to your or your family's health.

If you are a council tenant or have a registered social landlord, contact the council who will engage a specialist contractor to carry out the work on any notifiable asbestos materials. Do not disturb asbestos materials under any circumstances. If you are in any doubt, contact the Housing Management Support Team on 01634 333601.

If you are a private tenant, please contact your landlord. Private owners should employ a licensed contractor to inspect and if necessary, remove the asbestos. A full list of licensed contractors can be found on the Health and Safety Executive's website.

How to report asbestos pollution or get advice on asbestos

Report contaminated land, light pollution, drainage or asbestos issues.

If you are concerned about or affected by asbestos on a or from a building/construction site (domestic or commercial), please contact the Health and Safety Executive on 08701 545500.

What if I find asbestos in the workplace?

The Control of Asbestos in the Workplace Regulations 2002 places duties on places of work to:

  • Identify asbestos (where it is, how much there is and what condition it is in
  • Assess the risk from asbestos (what are the risks and to whom)
  • Prepare a plan that sets out how the asbestos is going to be managed
  • Implement the plan
  • Review and monitor the plan and the arrangements put in place to implement the plan
  • Provide information on the location and condition of the asbestos to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb it.

Dos and don’ts when carrying out DIY:

  • If you suspect that you have asbestos materials in your home, do take extra care when doing DIY
  • Do not attempt work on sprayed asbestos, lagging or insulating boards, as this must be undertaken by a licensed asbestos removal contractor. If in doubt, seek advice
  • Do not drill, cut or disturb asbestos unless absolutely necessary
  • Do not scrape or sand asbestos materials before painting and decorating. Some types of asbestos materials are very soft and can release large numbers of fibres if rubbed or scraped.

How should you dispose of asbestos?

Asbestos waste is a toxic and dangerous waste which must be disposed of properly. It is against the law to put any asbestos waste in a dustbin - seek advice from the council about making arrangements for collection and disposal at a designated site.

More information on asbestos disposal can be found at Asbestos disposal.

Where can you get further advice?

Further information and advice on asbestos is available from a number of sources.

You can contact Medway’s Housing Support Team on 01634 333601 if you are a council tenant.

You should contact a Medway Council environmental health officer if you are not a Medway Council tenant.

You could consult your general practitioner or health board if you are concerned about your own health or the health of a member of your family and think that you or they have been exposed to asbestos.

The basic rule is, if in doubt ask …Medway Council is here to help.