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19th May 2011

Asbestos And Where It’s Found

The majority of people have heard of asbestos and understand it’s a dangerous substance found in buildings throughout the UK. However, few people are actually aware its uses and that there are different types of asbestos that carry different health risks.

History of Asbestos Usage

Prior to the increase in industrial use of asbestos at the beginning of the twentieth century, there were fewer cases reported of asbestos related illness. This was due to it being used more in the workplace from the early 1900’s. The start of the 1960’s saw asbestos import in the UK hit its peak, exposing handlers to the diseases related to asbestos.

The use of asbestos however, dates back thousands of years to pre-Roman times as they discovered asbestos can withstand incredibly high temperatures and demolition. History books show that it was used for Roman tablecloths and even to add strength to roads. Egyptians also made burial clothes out of asbestos fibres due to them resisting decay.

Uses for asbestos pipes in the twentieth century included: thermal insulation for pipes; Asbestos Insulating boards (AIB) found on ceilings and door panels; fire protection coating on structural supports; vinyl (PVC) or thermoplastic floor tiles; textured coatings for decorative purposes, such as Artex, and cement roof sheeting on industrial buildings. Although asbestos has been banned for many years now asbestos can still exist in buildings and asbestos management is important to control asbestos and abide by the law.

The Three Types of Asbestos

Some people are aware that there are three types of asbestos but may not know their uses and how dangerous they are.

Chrysolite, also known as white asbestos was the most widely used asbestos and wasn’t banned until 1999. Chrysolite fibres are incredibly heat resistant but are also very soft so can be spun like cotton. Chrysolite is mainly used to reinforce cement building products due to their resistance to alkaline.

Amosite, was banned by the Asbestos Regualtions 1985 act on 1 January 1986. Amosite is brown asbestos and is generally used to prevent condensation and for acoustic purposes. It is also very fire resistant and is used for fire protection on structural steel. During the period between 1920 and 1960, Amosite was used for pipe insulation and moulded pipe fitting covers and as AIB, particularly in the UK.

Crocidolite is the strongest of all three asbestos fibres and the most lethal to humans. Although strict guidelines were in place on terms of usage from 1969, Crocidolite wasn’t actually banned until 1985. Blue asbestos was used for rope lagging in the late 19th century until the 1960’s and as preformed insulation from the 1920’s until the 1950’s. The 1950’s saw the peak of Crocidolite importation which led to a 25% drop by the 60’s, followed by an 88% decrease in the following decade.

Does My Building Pose A Health Risk?

Many duty holders of commercial buildings choose to have an asbestos survey on their building. This is because failure to comply with the Health and Safety Executive regulations regarding the substance can lead to penalties due to the severity of the health hazards asbestos poses. If you think your building may contain asbestos then it’s definitely time to book a survey for your building.


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