In 2010, a British Lung Foundation survey found that nearly half of all property owners were unaware that asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were once widely used as a building material and nearly two thirds did not feel confident they could identify the substance.
Everyday building firms are brought to court to face prosecution for not carrying out the required asbestos survey procedures or failing to observe the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006/12 for the safe containment and disposal of waste asbestos.
Yet the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) continue with asbestos awareness campaigns to constantly remind all those who are likely to be exposed to asbestos on a regular basis to understand the very real and present risks still posed by its presence if fibre dust is released and breathed in. Currently HSE awareness / training initiatives are being conducted in Scotland and Ireland.
Here at WESolicitors, there is never a shortage of concerned enquiries seeking asbestos advice on finding and identifying the hidden fibres, so it seems that the message is reaching more people than perhaps just a few years ago. Most questions tend to focus on the more visible materials such as Artex textured ceiling coatings, which was a popular interior decoration, especially in the 1970s.
It has been estimated that nearly third of asbestos is found on textured ceiling coatings although there can be as much as 15 per cent used to insulate boiler flue pipes, cold water storage tanks, sprayed insulation, eaves, gutters and rainwater pipes, etc. Until the first bans were introduced in the mid 1980s, asbestos fibres were used to form many other types of standard building materials, such as floor and ceiling tiles.
White asbestos continued to be used for at least a further ten years and most properties built or renovated up until the 1990s at least are still likely to contain asbestos in items, such as insulating board, ceiling panels, packing and filler.
Artex coating was also strengthened with white asbestos fibres until the mid 1980s but had been removed from the manufacturing process by the 1990s.
Until imports were banned in 1999 asbestos continued to be most notably used on a number of cement-based materials for garage and outbuilding roofs ( corrugated sheeting and shingle tiles, boiler cupboards / enclosures and outhouses, and is most frequently in the news when discovered and recklessly broken up by builders or found flytipped.
It must be remembered that asbestos building materials were used not only in private residential properties and housing estates but also in many types of commercial / industrial premises and public buildings including schools, nurseries, hospitals, and retail outlets.
Unless white asbestos is discovered in a highly friable (fragile, disintegrating) condition and is left undisturbed, there is little risk of releasing fibre dust. However, under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 /12, a full authorised survey/ analysis must be carried out with either proper containment management or removal disposal plans in place.
Each year, more than 1.8 million people are exposed to asbestos and over 2,000 cases of the fatal, incurable mesothelioma cancer diagnosed yet asbestosis symptoms may only become known up to 50 years or more after an initial exposure.