What is asbestos? The term asbestos is used when referring to naturally occurring materials that, over time, form fibres and then begin to crystallise. Asbestos fibres do not dissolve when in contact with water and do not evaporate. Asbestos is not considered as hazardous when in large pieces and if the asbestos is not disturbed. However, when asbestos is damaged, small fibres are released into the air and when inhaled or swallowed, the small fibres can be hazardous and cause health problems. 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 several different types of asbestos to be aware of, each with different properties and used for different applications. There are two sub-groups including serpentine (white asbestos) and amphiboles (blue and brown asbestos). Serpentine was the more commonly used type. Chrysolite (white asbestos) Chrysolite was the most used form of asbestos and was used for manufacturing ceilings, walls, and floors for residential homes. This type of asbestos was also used for brake linings, boiler seals, and for insulation in pipes and other appliances. 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. Amosite (brown asbestos) Amosite is a stronger type of asbestos and has a higher heat tolerance. Amosite is mostly mined in Africa and was commonly used for electrical insulation, plumbing insulation, thermal insulation, ceiling tiles, and cement sheets. Crocidolite (blue asbestos) 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 lungs for a long time. Crocidolite was also used frequently to insulate steam engines, spray-on coatings, and pipe insulation. 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. Why was asbestos used? Before asbestos was banned, it was used widely in construction for many materials and products. Asbestos was used as an insulation material found in buildings, car brakes, 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. This means anyone can inhale them and, when inhaled, they can lead to various health problems. Asbestos is carcinogenic to 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 erosion of asbestos cement and from other natural sources containing asbestos. When asbestos is inhaled, over time this can have negative impacts on one’s health. Workers who have been exposed to high amounts of asbestos are more likely to suffer from lung and heart problems. Long-term asbestos exposure can result in a number of health issues, including: Breathing difficulties Enlargement of the heart Blood clots Strokes Hearth failure/heart attack A worker who is exposed to low concentrations of asbestos is still susceptible to health problems in the future, but not as major as someone who is exposed to high concentrations. Asbestosis Asbestosis is a lung condition which is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition. The symptoms of asbestosis Shortness of Breath – When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can harm your lungs and cause scar tissue to form. The scarred tissue makes it more difficult to breathe and is regularly the first sign of asbestosis. 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 and can worsen when combined with other symptoms. Wheezing – This is caused by inflammation in the lungs and causes a whistling sound, especially with a deep breath. Persistent Dry Cough – An effect of asbestos that can remain undetected for many years, even after exposure, is a persistent cough. 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. Who’s at risk? Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999. Many people in jobs such as construction, painting, decorating, plastering, roofing, and more were exposed to high amounts of asbestos frequently. Additionally, electricians, boilermakers, and carpenters were also exposed, resulting in health problems years after exposure. Homes pre-2000 often used Artex for their ceilings and walls which contained asbestos. Throughout the 1980s, the shipbuilding industry was thriving and many of the materials being loaded were asbestos-related, such as insulation. Asbestos was responsible for as many as 2,500 deaths of construction workers in 2005, many of which were cancer-related. Before the year 2000, many old residences and buildings had high amounts 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. Many members of society were exposed to the harmful effects of asbestos, with people who already had existing health problems at a much higher risk of developing asbestos-related issues, and at a faster rate. It took many years of research to realise asbestos was a silent killer, leading to its ban in 1999. When was asbestos banned? The first asbestos laws in the UK were passed 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 1999, 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 working with asbestos-related products there were now regulations that had to be followed, including that material and products containing asbestos must be handled by licenced professionals. Additionally, regulations set exposure limits to manage the safety of asbestos and training sessions on what to do when exposed to asbestos were introduced. Read more about how to correctly dispose of asbestos here. The UK updated its asbestos regulations, to follow the European Commission’s request, in one law called the ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012’. 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 handled by licenced professionals. Additionally, regulations set exposure limits to manage the safety of asbestos and training sessions on what to do when exposed to asbestos. Read more about how to correctly dispose of asbestos here. 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 request. Who are we? Here at DES Holdings, we have over 30 years of experience in the asbestos removal industry. Our highly skilled team will work with you from start to finish to safely 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. We work with all types of asbestos from cement water tanks and floor tiles to asbestos insulation pipes, insulated boards etc. At DES we are licenced asbestos contractors and have the ability, knowledge, and expertise to help assist you in removing asbestos in the safest way possible. If you think you have asbestos in your residential or commercial property, contact us now so we can remove the threat by calling us on 01527 521 457.