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Asbestos is one of the strongest naturally occurring mineral fibres known to man.Presenting itself as bundles of fibres, it can be separated into durable threads which are heat, fire and chemical resistant and do not conduct electricity. Little wonder it was attractive as a building and insulating material.

A selection of questions that we are frequently asked about Asbestos and Asbestos Removal.

WHERE AM I LIKELY TO FIND IT IN A BUILDING?

Asbestos was most commonly used to insulate pipes and boilers. However it was often used as a constituent material with stucco, plaster, cement,wallboard, ceiling and floor tiles, acoustical tiles,asphalt roofing, shingle and tiles, fireproof tiles as well as with grouts and caulking material. Care should betaken at all times to identify asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) before restoration work or demolition.

WHAT DO I LOOK FOR?

Any crumbly, biscuit material should be treated withcaution especially if it is of a lightish grey, browny orgreen-blue appearance. Be warned, it is not alwayseasy to define Asbestos type visually by colour. Theyare three types of asbestos. Chrystole (whiteasbestos) which is thought to be the least dangerousbut, all the same, was banned from use in November1999 and there’s Amosite (brown asbestos) and lastlyCrocidolite (blue asbestos). Both of these last two areconsidered extremely dangerous and both werebanned from use in 1985.

JUST HOW DANGEROUS IS ASBESTOS?

In a degraded state very dangerous otherwise just a future hazard to have hanging around in your building and always subject to exposure by mishap. Broken or powered Asbestos can release microscopic particles (as fibres) into the air that can be breathed in or swallowed and then trapped in the lower part of the lungs. Exposure to asbestos can create serious health problems. Lung cancer is the most common (taking some 15 to 20 years to develop after exposure). This is also about same period of time in which the highly debilitating Asbestosis or scarring of the lung tissue can take to make an appearance. Though rarely fatal in itself it can lead to cases of premature death through pneumonia, flu or lung cancer. The Asbestosis condition has also been linked to a rare form of cancer known as ‘mesothelioma’ which attacks the lining of the lungs and abdomen. It can be contracted from limited, low level asbestos exposure.

WHAT IF I SUSPECT MY BUILDING CONTAINS ASBESTOS?

Do not under any circumstances tamper with suspected Asbestos. Only approved, licensed specialists should remove Asbestos. Remember, Asbestos is highly dangerous; it is far more dangerous for the unqualified to remove Asbestos improperly than to leave it alone, whatever its condition. If your building is of the age to contain Asbestos – and that’s possibly any building built before 1985 – assume that it does. Your first recourse is to call in an approved Asbestos Removal company such as Solent Environmental. These are people specifically licensed to do the job and they will conduct a survey of your building. If you are the ‘Duty Holder’ of the building you are obliged to take action to remedy the problem. It has been estimated that in excess of half a million public and commercial premises still have some form or other of Asbestos in the fabric of their building. In fact the majority of building constructed pre 2000 contain asbestos.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A ‘DUTY HOLDER’?

It is the Health & Safety Executive’s term for the individual responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a public or commercial building. Since 2006 a requirement exists through CAWR to ensure that Asbestos is properly dealt with by that appointee.

PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT CAWR MEANS?

CAWR is the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006. This legislation requires all owners or maintainers of a ‘non-domestic’ building to be responsible for the possibility of exposure to Asbestos by staff, visitors or contractors on their property. They are obliged under law to survey their premises and draw up a plan to manage such risks and to keep this plan up to date.

HOW CAN I ENSURE THAT I AM FOLLOWING THE RIGHT PROCEDURES?

The Health & Safety Executive have published a booklet HSG 227 offering a comprehensive guide to managing Asbestos. Or you can call Solent Environmental for a one-to-one assessment of what you need to do. All their surveyors are trained to P402 qualification which is the benchmark for Asbestos Surveying in the UK. If you have Asbestos you will need a licensed Asbestos Removal Contractor such as Solent Environmental to remove Asbestos impregnated materials. To ensure good work practices and high levels of process and safety all contractors have to renew their Health & Safety Executive licensed every 3 years or less.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ASBESTOS ONCE IT IS REMOVED?

Its disposal is closely monitored and regulated. Penalties for mis-use are severe and could include heavy fines or even imprisonment. The double bagged waste is clearly indicated as hazardous material and transported in an environment controlled vehicle to a specific Environment Agency approved disposal site. All this is part of the process with Solent Environmental whose health and safety record is exemplary and, as ever, open to full scrutiny. In a hazardous industry Solent Environmental are the people to trust.

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