Read our comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about asbestos insulation, including the history, risks, exposure symptoms and facts. When was asbestos banned in the UK? Surprisingly, asbestos was only banned in the UK in 1999. It was extensively used in house building before this, as the risks were not apparent. What is asbestos? The term asbestos is used when referring to naturally occurring materials that over time, form fibres and then begin to crystalise. However, the asbestos fibres do not dissolve when in contact with water and do not evaporate. Asbestos is also highly resistant to heat and fire, as well as being mechanically and chemically strong. Asbestos was commonly used in the construction and manufacturing industry. Types of asbestos There are five types of asbestos, and they are divided into two main parts. The Serpentine and Amphiboles asbestos. Chrysolite (white) asbestos is the only type to come under the serpentine family and is the most dangerous. White Asbestos, Chrysolite – White asbestos was widely used in manufacturing because the fibres are flexible and soft. When compared to other asbestoses, like the amphibole fibres, which is brittle and has a needle-like presence. Asbestos is not considered hazardous when in large pieces and there is no danger if the asbestos is not disturbed. However, when asbestos is damaged, small fibres are released and inhaling or swallowing the small fibres can be hazardous and cause health problems. Brown Asbestos, Amosite – Amosite is a stronger asbestos and has a higher heat tolerance. Amosite is mostly mined in Africa and commonly used for electrical insulation, plumbing insulation, thermal insulation products, ceiling tiles, cement sheets, and many more. Amosite asbestos is the most dangerous when comparing it to other types of asbestos because amosite exposure can lead to a higher risk of cancer. Blue Asbestos, Crocidolite – Crocidolite is made up of thin fibres which makes it very hazardous. The fibres are thin and brittle and can break down easily, which means they can be inhaled easier and be trapped in your lung for a long time. Crocidolite is from the amphibole family and is considered to be the most harmful. Crocidolite was not used in commercial products but only in cement, insulation, and tiles. Crocidolite was also used frequently to insulate steam engines, spray-on coatings, and pipe insulation. Asbestos is carcinogenic to humans. Asbestos is also responsible for the development of asbestosis, which is a lung condition caused by long term exposure to asbestos. In many construction jobs during the 1980s – 1990s, many workers are more susceptible to developing health conditions down the line caused by asbestos. What was asbestos used for? Before asbestos was banned, it was used widely in construction for many materials and products. Asbestos was used for the insulation material found in buildings, car breaks, roofing, pipes, boilers, and floor tiles. This was because asbestos was seen as a strong and resistant material. Why is asbestos so dangerous? Asbestos, when remained untouched, is not as harmful. However, when disturbed or damaged, small fibres are released into the air and remain dormant in the air. This means anyone can inhale them and when inhaled, can lead to various health problems. As previously mentioned, asbestos is carcinogenic towards humans making it extremely hazardous. Asbestos can also be swallowed because it can make its way into water sources and vegetation. The way asbestos fibres can be found in water is due to the eroding asbestos cement and from other natural sources containing asbestos. When asbestos is inhaled, over time this can have negative impacts on one’s health. Jobs which are involved with high amounts of asbestos are more likely to suffer from lung and heart problems. Once asbestos is inhaled frequently, this can have an adverse effect on the worker’s lifespan. People who suffer from breathing difficulties due to asbestos leads to the enlargement of the heart, which can cause life-threatening problems, such as blood clots, strokes, heart attack, heart failure, and more. This meant workers that were involved with high concentrated amounts of asbestos frequently were at a higher risk of developing cancer over time. Asbestos does not develop over a short time but over a long time, and in some cases can take decades to develop. A worker who is exposed to low concentrations of asbestos is still suspectable to health problems in the future but not as major as someone who is exposed to high concentrations. Who’s at risk from asbestos exposure? Many jobs like construction jobs, painters, decorators, plasterers, roofers, and more were exposed to high amounts of asbestos frequently. Additionally, occupations like electricians, boilermakers and carpenters were also exposed to asbestos frequently. Throughout the 1980s, the shipbuilding industry was thriving and many of the parts being loaded were asbestos-related parts like insulation. As mentioned before, asbestos is airborne making it easier for workers to breathe it in unknowingly. Construction workers during the 1980s to 1990s, were at higher risk than others because asbestos was used frequently in this industry. Asbestos is responsible for as many as 2,500 deaths of construction workers in 2005, many of which were cancer-related. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lungs. This is always fatal and caused by high asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related lung cancer is nearly always fatal. Before the year 2000, many old residences and buildings had high tolerances of asbestos inside. Additionally, asbestos was used frequently in chemical plants, power plants, and refineries. Asbestos was widely used in schools and homes across the UK because it is an insulation material. This meant many more people were more susceptible to health problems caused by asbestos. Vulnerable people are more susceptible to health problems and are at a higher risk of asbestos-related health problems, as well as women who are pregnant and small children. Many studies suggest asbestos does not cause harmful pregnancy outcomes of birth defects, however, children exposed to mesothelioma may develop symptoms over time. It took many years of research to realise asbestos was a silent killer, leading to its ban in 1999. Why was asbestos banned? Asbestos was officially banned on August 24th, 1999. This was a month before the European Union banned white asbestos, Chrysolite. The asbestos law was finalised and made public on the 24th of November 1999. Products that contained chrysolite were allowed to remain in the same place until they reached the end of their life. But Amosite and Crocidolite had been banned in previous years (1985). Chrysolite was the only type of asbestos that was permitted in the UK until 1999. The importation of powder, crude fibre, flake, and waste chrysolite was prohibited. Also, second-hand products containing asbestos were forbidden, as well as asbestos cement, panels, and boards. Before 1999 many people did not know the repercussions caused by asbestos. Though, the increase of Mesothelioma cases in the 20th Century increased in the UK. Asbestos Regulations The first asbestos laws in the UK started in the 1980s. By 1985 the ban on the import and use of Crocidolite and Amosite (also known as blue and brown asbestos) were banned. Then following up in 1992, the rule was changed to ban all use of white asbestos, Chrysolite. During this time various other laws had passed. This was to control asbestos, then eventually ban all use of it. When using asbestos-related products there were now regulations that had to be followed. Materials and products containing asbestos must be done by licenced asbestos professionals. Additionally, regulations set exposure limits to manage the safety of asbestos and training sessions on what to do when exposed to asbestos. Then the UK banned all the regulations in one law called the ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations. In 2012 it was then updated to follow the European commission’s request. Due to, asbestos being regularly used in construction, many homes, buildings, schools, etc built in the UK before the 2000s are prone to have high or low asbestos exposure. The symptoms of asbestos exposure Shortness of Breath – When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can harm your lungs and cause scar tissue to form in your lungs. The scarred tissue makes it harder and difficult to breathe and is regularly the first sign of asbestos-associated illness. Swollen Fingertips – In many cases involving Asbestosis related problems, the person will suffer from swollen fingertips. The fingertips will appear rounder and broader. Fatigue – Extreme tiredness can also be a sign, combined with other symptoms like shortness of breath, swollen fingertips. Wheezing – This is caused by inflammation in the lungs and causes a whistling sound, especially with a deep breath. This as well is a symptom but would only be asbestos-related if matched with the previous symptoms. Persistent Dry Cough – An effect of asbestos that can remain undetected for many years even after exposure, is a persistent cough. This suggests it can be an asbestos-related symptom. Asbestos can develop over a long time and persistent coughing is linked to scarred tissue in the lungs. What to do if you are exposed to asbestos? If you think you have been exposed to Asbestos in the past and or feel as if you are experiencing asbestos-related symptoms mentioned above, it is important to let your GP know. However, many people do not develop life-threatening symptoms if the exposure was low. What to tell your GP – Where you work – If you live with someone who might have inhaled asbestos. – DIY situations where you might have been exposed to asbestos – Make sure the asbestos is logged in your medical records. – Further tests you may need to take. Who are we? Here at DES, we have over 30 years of experience in the asbestos removal industry. Our highly skilled team will work with you from the start to finish to remove the problem. We undertake commercial and domestic work and can work in controlled and regulated conditions set out by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Safe asbestos removal We work with all types of Asbestos from cement water tanks, floor tiles, asbestos insulation pipes, insulated boards etc. At DES we are licensed asbestos contractors and have the ability, knowledge, and expertise to help assist you in any way you need. At DES we hold a 3-year license and pride ourselves in doing our work to the highest quality and in the safest, most efficient manner possible. DES work regularly within the industrial, commercial, and residential areas for public and private sectors. Read about the safe disposal of asbestos here. We work within the strict guidelines of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 for both licensed and unlicensed work within public, domestic, and private sectors. Survey Testing Removal of asbestos Encapsulation Disposal Remediation of asbestos-contaminated land Blast and breathe method available.