Most of you know that asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are dangerous and that asbestos has been clearly identified as a human carcinogen. Importantly, the type of Asbestos Containing Material (ACM), it’s location, extent and condition, all make a great deal of difference to the risk it poses to human health. That is why it is very important to take remedial action to manage the risk of ACMS or completely remove the material from your building at the earliest opportunity. This article provides some basic information on the types of building materials containing asbestos.
Even though there are six types of asbestos out there, only three of them have been widely used in construction. These include White Asbestos (Chrysotile), Blue Asbestos (Crocidolite), and Brown Asbestos (Amosite). All three are naturally occurring fibrous silicates that are commonly used due to their salient features of heat resistance, incombustibility, flexibility, and strength. Blue is the most dangerous out of the three types – followed by brown and white. The material that is used to mix asbestos fibres can increase the risk factor even further. If the asbestos fibres are tightly bonded (e.g. in resin or polymer), the material poses a significantly lower risk since the fibres are less likely to be airborne easily. On the other hand, when you have a high-risk material (such as a loose spray or lagging), even a minor disturbance can release a lot of fibres into the air. Although most of these risky materials were banned in the latter part of the 1980s, some ACMs were not banned until the year of 1999. In the United Kingdom alone, there are more than one million offices with ACMs. The number of residential units are difficult to calculate but can run into many millions.
Even if an ACM is present in your workplace, it won’t be an immediate hazard unless the material is damaged and the asbestos fibres themselves are airborne. Importantly, if the ACMs are in good condition and not likely to be disturbed, you can usually leave them alone so long as their location, extent and condition is duly recorded in an Asbestos Register. However, they shouldn’t be damaged or disturbed under any circumstances, and any activity that is likely to cause fibres to become airborne should be approached with the necessary caution. In other words, you must inform any workers or contractors who are working in the vicinity of the risks. You may, of course, be unsure about what is present in your building and will probably need a professional survey carried out
None of the construction materials used today contains any level of asbestos in them. However, before the year 2000, prefabricated cement, corrugated roof sheeting, insulating board, lagging and insulation, fire blankets, gaskets and adhesive floor tiles are potential ACMs. Workers and contractors must be made aware that these materials if installed before 2000, should be presumed (unless tested under laboratory conditions and proved to be asbestos-free) to contain asbestos.
In conclusion, ACMs are dangerous if not properly managed. Asbestos is a human carcinogen. There is no reason to panic as long as the materials are not damaged or disturbed. If you think your property contains ACMs contact us for an informal chat and if necessary arrange for an Asbestos Management Survey to be undertaken.