Living with Asbestos advice

Many people have worries about asbestos, but undisturbed asbestos usually poses no problems. However, care should be taken to prevent the release of fibres as they can cause serious damage to your health.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in a range of building materials to make them more rigid and fire resistant. It has also been used in household products such as ironing boards and oven gloves. Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in Great Britain from the 1950s through to the mid 1980s. Some of areas in your home where you may find asbestos include:

  • Roof eaves gutters and rainwater fall pipes
  • Fire blankets
  • Garage and shed roofs
  • Linings for walls, ceilings and doors
  • Insulation panels in some storage heaters
  • Bath panels
  • Central heating flues
  • Loose asbestos packing between floors and in partition walls
  • Floor tiles

Most people are exposed to low amounts of asbestos present in the atmosphere with no ill effects. Asbestos fibres and dust are potentially very dangerous if inhaled in higher concentrations over a period of time, when they can cause serious lung diseases including cancer. The symptoms of these diseases often do not appear for between 20 -30 years after exposure to asbestos.

What to do if you think you have asbestos in your home

It is very hard to identify asbestos, but if you suspect that you are living with asbestos:

  • Don't panic and leave asbestos alone, it's safe unless it's damaged or disturbed
  • Never sand, drill or saw asbestos materials
  • Always seek professional advice before thinking of removing asbestos materials
  • Do not attempt to remove asbestos lagging, spray coatings or insulation board by yourself. 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. Only employ a suitably trained person to sample or do a survey of the premises

The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local authority website where you can find out more about asbestos inspections.

Apply for an Asbestos Inspection

Please note: Search the Direct Gov web site for "Apply for an Asbestos Inspection"

Removing asbestos from your home

If you do choose to remove the non-licensable asbestos materials yourself it will help if you take the following precautions:

  • Wear a dust mask approved for asbestos
  • Wear a disposable overall
  • Keep other people away from the working area
  • Wet the material well with water containing a little washing up liquid, check that there is no potential for contact with electricity first
  • Always remove whole sheets or components; do not break them up
  • Place any loose or small items in strong plastic labelled bags and seal
  • Clean up all dust with a damp cloth and then seal it in a plastic bag whilst damp; do not use a domestic vacuum cleaner as dust may pass through the filter.

If you have removed asbestos from your home yourself, it will need to be disposed of separately from your normal household waste. You may be able to arrange to have it collected or there may be special facilities in your area you can use to dispose of hazardous waste. Contact your local council for further details.

What to do if you are concerned about asbestos

The Health and Safety Executive provides extensive information and advice on the use and removal of asbestos. Members of the public may contact the Health and Safety Executive infoline, 0845 345 0055, for general advice on asbestos.

Your council can offer advice to residents and businesses on what to do if it is thought that asbestos may be present in a building. Inspectors may visit the premises to confirm the presence of asbestos and advise on procedures for removal and disposal.

Information on Asbestos from the Health and Safety Executive

Information sourced by

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