Asbestos can be found in almost any home, construction, or public building. It will often only become apparent when it is disturbed, i.e. during renovation work.

There are many materials asbestos surveyors will check when looking for the substance, but some are more dangerous than others as they are more likely to get damaged and expel the harmful fibres into the air.

When asbestos is disturbed, the fibres released can be breathed in, causing health issues to develop. Often, these issues and diseases are only detectable years later, when it is too late to do anything about them. This is why protection when dealing with potential asbestos-containing materials is vital.

Where is asbestos commonly found?

Asbestos can be found in the following areas of a home or construction project:

  • Roofing tiles
  • Insulation
  • Piping
  • Cement-based materials
  • Ceilings
  • Textures walls
  • Painted surfaces
  • PVC tiles

Asbestos is most common in buildings erected pre-2000. It was banned in 1999, but this means that renovation projects on older properties are causing issues, especially if they have largely been untouched and are now forming part of a DIY project. Thankfully, we are now more aware of the risks and dangers of asbestos than ever before.

Still, an average of 5,000 people every year die from diseases caused by previous asbestos exposure. It is still a risk to deal with.

The HSE states insulation and moulded or preformed lagging used in the thermal insulation of pipes can usually cause the most damage, as they can be made of up to 85 per cent asbestos fibres and release them easily.

In other materials, such as cement, it is very tightly bound and will only be released if the surface is drilled into, damaged or broken - which can still occur on a building site during construction work.

Asbestos loose packing is among the most dangerous and this can be found in ceiling voids as it is used as a fire break due to its flame resistant properties. Similarly, sprayed asbestos is often used to protect against fire in panels and partitions, ducts, fire breaks and cement sheets where there is structural steel work.

Some ceiling tiles, often found in offices, contain the fibre, as do insulating boards that can be used in numerous places around commercial buildings including ceiling and wall panels, partitioning, ducts and for thermal insulation. Tiles can be made from a variety of materials, such as vinyl or thermoplastic.

Corrugated sheets often used in roofing and wall cladding, asbestos cement in gutters, rainwater pipes and water tanks, bitumen roofing material and some texturing coatings can be dangerous, as can millboard and paper products used to insulate electrical equipment.

Many of these materials are found in both commercial and residential buildings, meaning construction workers may be at risk no matter what type of property they are working on. If asbestos fibres are released they could also affect those who live or work in the property, highlighting just how important safety and awareness of asbestos management really is.

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