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. Any building built before 2000 can contain asbestos. Asbestos materials in good condition are safe unless asbestos fibres become airborne, which happens when materials are damaged.
There are six types of asbestos.
- Chrysotile (white asbestos)
- Amosite (brown asbestos)
- Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 'Hidden Killer Campaign' website has a lot of useful information and resources.
What is the danger?
Asbestos fibres are present in the environment so people are exposed to very low levels of fibres. However, a key factor in the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is the total number of fibres breathed in. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, which may be many hundreds of times that of environmental levels could increase a persons chances of getting an asbestos-related disease.
There are four main diseases caused by asbestos:
- Asbestos-related lung cancer
- Pleural thickening
These diseases will not affect someone immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website has details on asbestos related diseases.
Disposing of Asbestos
Asbestos cannot be re-used or recycled under any circumstances, this is governed by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
To transport asbestos waste for disposal you will need to either hire a registered waste carrier or register as a waste carrier to transport the waste yourself:
You should contact an appropriate waste company which can accept hazardous waste (asbestos):
If you are producing the hazardous waste you may need to register your premises. If you are collecting the asbestos from somebody else, you will need to check that the site is either registered or exempt from the need to do so.
If you are a householder looking to dispose of asbestos, please read the information on our household waste page: