Asbestos Removal

It may be hiding where you can't see it- up in the attic as a fine blanket between the ceiling and the ductwork to insulate sound or a film of material around your hot water heater or plumbing.  It might even be right under your feet as insulation beneath the wood floor of your home.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos removal (or asbestos abatement) is necessary in buildings where fibres from the disintegrating matter may come into respiratory contact with human beings.  As asbestos ages the fibres become weak and dry and are easily spread into the air as a fine particulate or dust that can have hazardous health effects on anyone who inhales them.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen and can cause several types of respiratory cancers.  Old asbestos material can turn into dust with the slightest agitation and something as simple as minor renovation or plumbing and electrical work can create hazardous breathing conditions.  After its dispersion it can remain in the fibres of carpets and furniture and is easily spread through common ventilation systems making its safe removal complicated.

The use of white asbestos was fully banned in the UK in 1999 however China and India continue to use it for construction purposes in residential homes, factories and schools to this day.  The international movement to ban the substance entirely has had no impact on its use in developing nations where it is commonly found in the construction of fire retardant walls.

Health Risks

While experts agree that the health threat is directly related to inhalation and assure consumers that there is no risk as long as the material remains undisturbed over time, asbestos removal becomes more difficult as it breaks down into fine particles making it more difficult to contain.  Asbestosis is a type of pneumonia which is directly related to long term exposure to fibres which typically occurs during asbestos removal.  It is estimated that more than 1,000 tonnes of asbestos was released into the atmosphere during the collapse of the World Trade Towers in New York which is the much speculated cause of the significantly higher cancer and death rate among emergency workers and individuals in the area of the demolition.

Laws and Regulatory Guidelines

While the Asbestos (Prohibitions) Regulations 1992 banned the importation, supply and use of asbestos in the UK it was incredibly popular as a fire retardant building material and was widely used before its prohibition.  As such many homes, schools and places of business have some form of it in ceiling insulation or for sound proofing between floors and walls in multiple floor structures requiring asbestos removal.  It is also frequently found as the building material for eaves troughs, floor tiles, bath panels and duct work.

Safe Asbestos Removal

Successful asbestos removal which prevents the harmful carcinogen from becoming airborne requires the appropriate measures to ensure not just the health and safety of the technicians removing the harmful material but the well being of the inhabitants of the environment.  British Legislation governs work in high risk circumstances under Section 6(4) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 as well as a specific set of laws pertaining to Asbestos with Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (CAWR).

Given the health risk the material possesses and legal consequences of mishandling of the dangerous substance, asbestos removal should always be conducted by a certified professional who will take the appropriate measures to ensure containment.