The A Word

The A word

What is Asbestos?

When you are in the process of buying a house, the A word is one of the scariest you can hear. This is due to the culture of fear that surrounds the subject. There are still a large number of deaths that occur as a result of historic exposure to the material.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was mined in Canada and South Africa. It has been used for centuries as it has amazing qualities as a good insulator with extraordinary fire resistant properties .It was regarded for a long time as a wonder material that had so many differing applications from ironing boards to Christmas decorations. It is our intention to run a short series of blogs, over the next few months, on the use of asbestos in buildings. If you have any concerns over a property you are looking to buy and you need to have samples taken and tested, Domestic Sampling is able to provide an independent service, incorporating analysis by UKAS laboratories, all for as little as £75.00.


Types of Asbestos

There are many kinds of Asbestos but in UK construction we mainly refer to Blue (Crocidolite), Brown (Amosite) or White (Chrysotile).

Blue and Brown contain amphibole fibres that are small, harpoon like needles. They can be released when materials are abraded, damaged, broken or drilled. These cause greatest concern when found, as they present the most danger to health and thus the most serious financial implications for removal. If the contaminated area is over 1m2 then the Health and Safety Executive must be informed and a Licensed Contractor should be used for its removal. There are a limited number of contractors available to do this specialised removal and all their operatives must be well trained. Inevitably this work will prove costly. The use of Blue and Brown Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1985. It is most commonly found in industrial environments, for example Asbestos Insulating Boards (AIB) and pipe lagging.

White Asbestos contains serpentine fibres that are longer and more flexible in nature and they to are normally only released during abrasive or intrusive contact with the material. This type of fibre was normally used to strengthen other materials and to provide fire proofing. It is normally bound up tightly within the material it is a component in, such as corrugated sheets, boards and Artex ceiling coatings. These require a Competent Contractor as opposed to a Licensed Contractor for removal. To qualify as such requires an intensive training course and the acquisition of the appropriate insurances and disposal certificates. The use of White Asbestos was only banned in the UK in 1999 which gives an indication of the level of risk ascribed to the differing materials by the Health and Safety Executive.