Suspecting you have asbestos in your home, especially if a property is more than 25 to 30 years old when asbestos may have been used as insulation, can rightly be a cause for concern. As a specialist asbestosis lawyer, WeSolicitors receives regular enquiries over the imminent danger from suspected asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

In recent years, asbestos awareness of the continuing health risks have been highlighted by press reporting of asbestos discovered in public buildings, such as schools and hospitals, factory premises or residential housing estates. Although the most toxic blue and brown asbestos types were banned from use in the mid 1980s, the fibres of white asbestos were considered “low risk” and continued to be used in a variety of building applications from interior insulation wallboard to exterior corrugated roof sheeting until imports were banned in 1999.

It has been estimated that half a million commercial buildings around the UK could still contain asbestos, and a Freedom of Information request in 2011 revealed that of the 12,000 council properties surveyed in the Stoke On Trent area, more than three in five were found to contain asbestos.

Asbestos exposure risk

However, it is vitally important to be aware that there is unlikely to be an undue risk from exposure if asbestos:

• has been undisturbed
• is not in a fragile, disintegrating condition
• the fibres have not been released into the air

When it is necessary to identify a suspected ACM, a material sample may need to be officially taken for laboratory analysis and in some circumstances, an air sample analysis required when it is discovered that asbestos fibres have been released into the air over a period of time,

It is essential that some asbestos building materials, such as sprayed coatings, lagging / insulation or asbestos insulating board) should only be removed by a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). ACMs must be legally disposed of as hazardous waste and should not be mixed with normal household waste.

Any attempt to handle or remove the materials yourself could lead to the fibre dust being easily released into the atmosphere and breathed in. Whenever asbestos is suspected of being present, the HSE advise that you should contact an environmental health officer at your local authority/council, which can also be found at the Directgov website.

Asbestosis disease risk

The question of contracting asbestosis diseases or even mesothelioma cancer can be conditional on the length of time and frequency of exposure. When asbestos is discovered in schools, for example, it can be strongly suspected that the dust particles may have been released into the atmosphere, continually exposing both teachers and pupils over a number of years.

Builders, construction trade workers and asbestos removal contractors are expected to follow the strict Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006/12, which involves pre-work surveys, specialist protective equipment, sealing the contaminated area, prescribed disposal methods and time limits measured in the number of hours for continuous working with the material.

It should also be remembered that mesothelioma tends to incubate for at least 15 to 50 years from an initial prolonged period of continuous exposure before asbestosis symptoms first appear. The risk to health from the discovered presence of asbestos at home or at work can depend upon whether the fibre dust has been released in to the air, the particles inhaled and the length of continued exposure time.

Find out more about asbestos in domestic properties at the HSE website – Click here.