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Asbestos is the largest single cause of fatal disease caused by work in this country. Although almost all the deaths and ill-health related to asbestos today are due to exposures that happened several decades ago, anybody who is likely to come into contact with asbestos needs to be particularly careful.

Asbestos can be found in most commercial buildings built between 1950 and 1980, and many residential premises. It was used as insulation and lagging, and as a building material. Today it is only still used in brake pads and clutch linings as there is no effective, safer alternative.

Anybody involved in maintenance of property must be aware of the potential to expose and disturb asbestos. Those responsible for buildings must assess them to determine whether the presence of asbestos is likely.

There are strict regulations concerning the removal of asbestos, and its disposal. Removal of the most harmful types must be undertaken by licensed contractors. Other asbestos – containing materials must be carefully removed and bagged. They must be disposed of at special waste sites. Building Managers, main contractors and householders all have responsibilities to ensure this is carried out safely and in accordance with the Regulations.

The fibres released within asbestos dust are very fine and can lodge deep within the lung if breathed in. Once there, they can cause local irritation or, in a small number of cases, cause asbestos or lung cancer which cannot be treated. Asbestos cannot cause harm through being swallowed or skin contact, and is therefore only a hazard in its dusty form.

Asbestos in Buildings  

Many thousands of tonnes of asbestos were used in buildings until 1985. Its most common uses were:  

  • Sprayed asbestos in ceiling voids and structural steel.
  • Pre-formed coatings and lagging on pipes and boilers.
  • Fire protection in ducts, partitions, soffits and ceilings.
  • Insulating Boards
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Floor tiles
  • Corrugated roofing sheets, rainwater goods and water tanks.
  • Textured finishes.  

People responsible for buildings must identify the asbestos, and assess it for risk. It may be best left alone, or it may need coating, or it may require removal. In any circumstance, if works are required on, or in the vicinity of, the material, a risk assessment must be carried out and control measures implemented in order to protect the workforce and the working environment. The assessment must include disposal arrangements.   Detailed information concerning safety measures when working with asbestos, and the legal requirements, are contained in HSE Guidance.

Asbestos in the Home  

The most common use of asbestos in the home between the 1950’s and 1980’s, included: 

  • Insulating board-ducts, panels, ceiling tiles, partitions.
  • Lagging – old pipes and boilers (mainly in boiler houses).
  • Sprayed coatings in the boiler houses and lift shafts of flats
  • Asbestos cement products – corrugated shed roofs, gutters, downpipes, soffits, water tanks, roofing tiles.
  • Domestic equipment – iron stands, oven door seals, fire blankets
  • Floor tiles
  • Textured finishes

Asbestos has not been used in any domestic situation or equipment since 1985.  

The Environmental Health Department can give you general advice on what to do with asbestos, or suspected asbestos, within your home. If you are a home owner, you will have to pay for its identification and treatment or removal, if you decide to do so.  

Undamaged asbestos is often best left where it is, because the act of removal can lead to higher levels of fibres. If there is slight damage, flaking or dust, the material can often be sealed or enclosed.  

Asbestos materials that are badly damaged and releasing dust should be removed by licensed contractors. Do not attempt to do any work on these materials yourself which involves breaking or cutting them. Anybody carrying out work must minimise dust by wetting the material, using hand tools, avoiding scraping the surface, avoiding cutting whenever possible, and vacuuming dust as it is produced with an industrial Type H vacuum cleaner. They must wear a suitable mask and disposable overalls, and enclose the working area.


Licensed contractors and building contractors must remove the waste they produce from site. Asbestos waste is special waste and particular rules apply to its carriage and disposal.   Householders who wish to dispose of asbestos cement products can take them directly to a special waste site. 


They must telephone first in order to find out how the waste should be packaged. Further information can be obtained from Environmental Health, the HSE, or the Environment Agency (for disposal queries) 03708 506 506. HSE Info line: 0845 345 0055, or HSE Books, P.O. Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, Tel. 01787 881165.  


Please Note: Asbestos waste of any kind cannot be accepted at the Household Waste Recycling Centre on Barkers Lane.  

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