Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in many building materials. Asbestos was used as a building material in the UK until 1999 and its use continues in other countries. In the UK, it is considered a hazardous material, as it can cause serious health problems if disturbed and inhaled or ingested. Each year, asbestos-related illnesses cause around 5,000 deaths. Asbestos causes a wide range of illnesses, including lung cancer and mesothelioma and when conducting any work around suspected asbestos-containing materials, strict measures should be in place to avoid danger. Asbestos exposure can cause: Difficulty breathing Coughing Chest tightness Wheezing Mesothelioma Lung cancer Asbestosis How will I know if asbestos is disturbed? If you think you may have disturbed asbestos, there are some tell-tale signs that can give away its presence: Fluffy fibres – if you see fibres that look like cotton wool, it could be asbestos. Distinctive odour – when disturbed, asbestos can give off a distinctive odour, similar to burning plastic. Crumbling materials – asbestos can become brittle over time, making it easily disturbed. Water damage – if you suspect water damage around asbestos-containing materials, it is likely that some of the material has been disturbed and released fibres into the environment. Unfortunately, there are no tests to determine if asbestos has been disturbed and the effects of asbestos exposure will not reveal themselves for years to come. For this reason, if working with suspected asbestos-containing materials (ACM), you should always follow the guidelines and stop working as soon as you encounter ACM to best protect yourself. For relevant government guidelines, you can read more here. Where can accidental asbestos exposure happen? Large amounts of asbestos were used in buildings before 2000 and as a result, a substantial number of buildings still contain some form of asbestos. If you are completing any building work or renovation in homes that predate 2000, you are likely to come into contact with ACM. If you suspect a property to have ACM before works begin, you should always contact a specialist like DES Holdings to inspect and survey the site. If you believe that asbestos has been disturbed, it is important to take immediate action. If you continue with works and then retrospectively suspect you have disturbed asbestos you must: Stop work Evacuate the building Prevent access Call a specialist to encapsulate or remove the ACM and prevent the spread Seek further specialist help The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has guidelines on what to do if you think asbestos has been disturbed in your property: Make sure the area is ventilated and seal off all air vents. Contact a specialist contractor who can assess the situation and advise on the best course of action. Keep all family members, visitors, and pets away from the affected area until the asbestos has been safely removed. Do not attempt to clean up any loose fibres yourself – leave this to a specialist contractor who will use appropriate protective equipment and specialised tools to ensure safe removal. Work with a specialist When working with asbestos it is essential to always consult a specialist to undertake any survey works, encapsulation and removal. DES Holdings are specialists in asbestos removal with over 30 years of experience handling asbestos. We would like to stress that working with asbestos is highly dangerous and can lead to serious health risks for you and others. If you fear you have disturbed asbestos or are likely to, please get in touch with us.