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About Asbestos / FAQs

At Core Surveys, we are frequently asked questions about asbestos: What is asbestos? How to identify asbestos?  Why is asbestos dangerous? are just a few examples.  Please consult the list of FAQs below and click on one to find an answer to your enquiry. Please also see our pages on types of asbestos and asbestos products. You can also download our FAQ information sheet to print and keep these questions and answers on file.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that takes millions of year to form. It was widely used in the UK construction industry between the 1950s and 1990s. It was routinely added to products such as cement, thermo plastics, insulation products and insulating board, so most houses and commercial properties built during this period are highly likely to contain some asbestos within the structure.

Asbestos was used because it was relatively low cost and had many beneficial properties, including:

  • Does not burn until 1000 degrees centigrade
  • Does not conduct heat
  • Not affected by chemicals or electricity
  • Has a very high tensile strengthCertain types are flexible

Materials containing asbestos are generally safe if they are in good condition. However, if they are damaged or broken, they can release fibres and dust into the air. These fibres, can damage lungs and lead to serious diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

How do I identify asbestos? What does asbestos look like?

With so many products having been produced and so many non-asbestos products which may look similar it can be very difficult for the untrained eye to identify asbestos. Our surveyors have an expert knowledge of the uses of asbestos and the types of products it may be contained within, but even then, samples are taken in order to confirm if asbestos is present and identify the exact type of asbestos.

Materials containing asbestos are generally safe if they are in good condition. However, if they are damaged or broken they can release fibres and dust into the air. These fibres can then harm your lungs and lead to serious diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Why was it used if it’s so dangerous?

Asbestos was used because it was relatively low cost and had many beneficial properties, including:

  • Doesn’t burn until 1000 degrees centigrade
  • Doesn’t conduct heat
  • Not affected by chemicals or electricity
  • Has a very high tensile strength
  • Certain types are flexible

Where can it be found?

Asbestos was used in over 3000 products and materials – you’d be surprised what everyday items it can turn up in. Here are some examples:

  • Asbestos cement products include, garage roofs, sheds, guttering, down-pipes, wall panels, bath panels, flue pipes, water tanks, patio tiles, roofing tiles and soffit boards.
  • Asbestos insulation board has been used for things like fire protection panels on cupboards and doors, ceiling tiles, partition walls and soffit boards.
  • Asbestos lagging was used to insulate pipes and boilers. However, it is less common in homes, especially those built after the mid-1970s, but we still come across it fairly frequently in commercial premises.
  • Asbestos sprayed coatings were used to protect structural steel from fire, amongst other uses.
  • Other asbestos products include some decorative coatings (most commonly known as artex), plastic floor tiles, paper backed floor lino and even toilet cisterns.

What do I do if I think my property may have asbestos?

Leave the affected areas alone and contact us. We can give you some further advice and we’ll only recommend a survey if we feel it is absolutely necessary. Avoid sanding, sawing, drilling or disturbing these materials. Do not attempt to remove asbestos lagging, spray coatings or large areas of insulation. These can only be safely removed by a licensed contractor.

What type of survey do I need?

There are two types of asbestos survey, as set out in HSG264 ‘Asbestos: The survey guide’, which replaced MDHS100 in January 2010. These are ‘management surveys’ and ‘refurbishment or demolition surveys’.

Management asbestos surveys help you comply with the law. They identify asbestos in all accessible areas, provide risk assessments on all asbestos containing materials identified and make recommendations where problems are identified.

Refurbishment or demolition asbestos surveys are much more intrusive and use destructive methods in order to access areas which would normally be classed as inaccessible within a management survey. You would only require this type of survey if you were carrying out major refurbishment or demolition. The aim of these surveys is to locate all asbestos within all areas of the building so that the correct measures can be taken prior to refurbishment or demolition.

Can I deal with asbestos myself?

Prior to carrying out any works involving asbestos, it is essential you talk to an expert. We don’t charge for advice over the phone and a simple conversation in most cases can ascertain whether or not you are permitted to deal with the type of asbestos you have, or whether you would be breaking the law if you did so.

If Core finds asbestos in my property, what happens next?

If we detect that there is a problem, we can arrange for the damage to be repaired or for the asbestos to be removed and disposed of safely. We will keep you fully informed and give you a number of possible options. Core always aims to provide practical, financially viable solutions and offer a full project management facility.

If there is asbestos and it’s not damaged, does it have to be removed?

No. Generally it is better to leave asbestos containing materials in place, especially if they are in good condition, so as to avoid unnecessary disturbance of asbestos fibres. In this situation, strategies to seal, encapsulate, repair, enclose and protect are preferred. A risk assessment will be carried out on all products, which will help in deciding the best course of action.

I’ve heard there are asbestos regulations. What are they and do they affect me?

Regulations were first introduced in 2002 and were the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAWR2002) but these were superseded in 2006 by the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR2006) and most recently the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR2012).

The most important points to note are Regulation 4 and Regulation 10. In summary Regulation 4 places a duty to manage asbestos on the duty holder, this may be the owner of the property, landlord or the manager of the business within the premises. The regulation covers non-domestic premises and the communal areas within domestic dwellings, blocks of flats for instance. Note that it is a duty to manage, not a duty to survey! It just so happens that often you will need to have a survey carried out in order to be able to manage asbestos.

But the survey is only the first step to managing asbestos, by having a survey carried out and then allowing it to gather dust on the shelf you are not complying with the regulations.

Regulation 10 relates to training. Those most likely to be exposed to asbestos nowadays are people within the trades, electricians, plumbers, etc., those who may be disturbing asbestos on a regular basis, often without knowing they are doing so. By implementing training, trades people, contractors and staff are more likely to be able to identify possible asbestos materials and therefore ensure safe working practices. Training saves lives.

Also note that the Construction Design Management Regulations (CDM2007) may also require an asbestos survey to be carried out, specifically where major refurbishment or demolition is taking place.

If there is anything else you would like to know about asbestos, please browse our website or contact us for more information.

Whether you require asbestos surveys, analysis, management, training or simply asbestos advice, our team of specialists is on hand to help in any way we can.

“The HSE strongly recommends the use of accredited or certificated surveyors for asbestos surveys. The duty holder should not appoint or instruct an independent surveyor to carry out a survey unless the surveyor is competent.”
HSG264 Asbestos: The Survey Guide

Identifying Asbestos Products

Click on the image to view our interactive building diagram which illustrates typical asbestos products that you may find in your premises and their likely location.

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