What exactly is it?
Asbestos is a natural, fibrous mineral that was generally used as a building material in the UK between the 1950s and 1980s. It was mined in the far-east, Africa and South America before the fibres were woven into fabrics or mixed into cement.
Asbestos was used because it is strong, sound absorbent and fireproof, thus making it an attractive material for construction products.
In 1999 the United Kingdom banned asbestos and the asbestos act was brought into place, controlling the use and handling of materials containing it. This was mainly due to the increased amount of lung-related issues being sustained by construction workers. The latest legislation is from 2012.
Any material used in buildings prior to 2000 may contain asbestos, but it is thought materials may have been used into the early 2000’s.
The three main types of asbestos.
Chrysotile, otherwise known as ‘white asbestos’, is the most commonly used form of asbestos in the UK.
Chrysotile is different to Amosite and Crocidolite in terms of fibre shape. It is made up of small curly fibres.
These are easier to get out of your respiratory system and are therefore less likely to lodge in your throat or lungs.
It is thought that 90% of all asbestos containing materials used in commercial projects was Chrysotile, until the ban came into force.
Amosite more commonly known as ‘brown asbestos’. This type of asbestos is generally seen as the second most dangerous type. It was banned for import in 1985, prior to the banning of Chrysotile.
Amosite is found in in dark minerals underground, it is stronger than Chrysotile fibres, and is easily lodged within the raspatory system. Amosite was used predominately in harder materials and was often mixed in with Chrysotile.
Crocidolite is also referred to as ‘blue asbestos’. Crocidolite is seen as the most dangerous type of asbestos in the UK and was actually banned in the UK in 1970. Although it is thought it was still used within materials until Amosite was also banned.
It is considered the most dangerous type due to the makeup of the fibres. They tend to be strong, short and spiked. Whereas Chrysotile and to an extend Amosite tend to scratch the surface of the lungs and throat, Crocidolite punctures and lodges in place.
Crocidolite and Amosite are part of the same family and were both mined mainly in South Africa. They are both part of the mineral family known as ‘Amphiboles’. Small dark minerals found underground.
What Building materials is it found in?
As it was the most commonly used type of asbestos, traces can be found in many materials. However, it is generally found in;
- Adhesives for roof and floor products
- Fireproofing and preventative products
- Felt for Roofing
- Vinyl tiles
Amosite was generally mixed with Chrysotile to provide a stronger product and can be found in;
- Cement sheets
- Thermal insulation
- Plumbing insulation such as pipe lagging
- Insulation boards
- Tiles, including those for ceilings, roofs and floors
- Roofing products
Although the most dangerous of the three, Crocidolite is less heat resistant and was generally used less in industrial products. It can be found in;
- Ceiling tiles
- Fire protection
- Insulation boards
- Spray-on insulation
- Cement sheets containing asbestos
- Electrical or telecommunication wires
- Thermal insulation (lagging for pipes)
Under the Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. Freeholders and managing agents have a duty to manage and report on asbestos in common parts. The availability of an Asbestos Register noting the existence and management of any Asbestos containing materials should be available.
Our Building Survey and Homebuyers reports will identify areas within a building that may contain asbestos and provide specialist advice on what to do next.
If you think you may have materials containing asbestos or are a freeholder/managing agent looking to seek more information regarding the ‘Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002’ Oakfield Surveyors can offer advice and information to help you make the right decision.