Given the number of dangers and health risks that are associated with asbestos, dealing with it can be a daunting business, especially if it needs testing, repairing or removing.
How can you deal with it effectively without endangering yourself, your family, contract workers or your employees?
The first step is addressing the issues and challenges faced when dealing with asbestos and searching for safe solutions:
1. Testing for asbestos (without releasing spores into the atmosphere)
Undisturbed materials containing traces of asbestos can still often be found within properties built before the year 2000, as removing it can actually create more problems. Undisturbed – there is no risk of exposure; however take steps to remove it and you could potentially exposure yourself, your family, contractors or your employees to asbestos fibres.
Yet sometimes it is unavoidable. For instance, if your ceiling were to suffer water damage, it is important for you to first find out if it does contain asbestos or not before any work can be performed.
So how can you go about testing it without accidentally exposing and releasing spores? There are 2 asbestos sample testing options that you can consider:
First: Taking the sample yourself and sending them directly to an EPA or UKAS Accredited Asbestos Testing Laboratory. Most can provide you with a report within 24 hours of receiving the samples.
To collect the sample you’ll first need to request a self-sampling kit and indicate how many you want to do. Next, you’ll need to complete the following checklist: dampen the sample area before disturbing it; break off 2 -3 inch squared pieces; double bag each sample in a clear polythene bag (or using the kits supplies); clearly label each sample bag with your name, address and where the sample was taken from in your property; place the samples within a study container; place in a second envelope and write on the address of the laboratory tester, and repair/seal your sample sites with duct tape or sealants.
Second: A local asbestos surveyor/EPA contractor can come to your property, safely take samples and have them sent off for testing. Naturally the safest way to do this is to hire an expert (surveyor/EPA contractor) who is trained to safely take these samples and prevent exposure.
2. Preventing exposure
Asbestos has a long reputation for causing serious health issues, including malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer. Yet the biggest problem is that in many cases, it takes years for the inhaled fibres to take effect – in some cases as long as 60 years. This means you could go years, never knowing that you’ve accidentally breathed it in.
That is why preventative measures are so important, as the slightest exposure can be damaging to your health in the long run.
And these risks of exposure are not just important to your family or employees – no one should risk exposure, including the people testing, repairing or removing it.
For this reason, it is always important to first find out when the property was built. If it was built before the year 2000, you should always assume that asbestos is present and get a surveyor in who can confirm its presence and where it is likely to be located in the property.
Whilst asbestos is most commonly found in roof tiles, insulation piping and ceilings, it can also be found in cement products, boiler seals and even spray coatings.
3. Implementing repairs
The first thing to note here is that low amounts of asbestos are always present in the air – as asbestos is naturally a mineral – yet causes no ill effects to the general population as the quantities are so low.
Health risks arise when you are exposed to stronger concentrations of asbestos over a long period of time. So technically discovering damage to your ceiling (which is suspected of containing asbestos) is nothing to be too worried about.
However, it is important that you still get this area repaired in case this damage increases and more fibres are released into the atmosphere.
Paint, wallpaper or PVA adhesives can all be used to cover damaged areas to prevent the release of dust. Simply prime with an alkali resistant primer, then apply emulsion or bitumastic paint. DO NOT sand or scrape.
NOTE: only remove asbestos if repair is not possible or if the area is at high risk of being disturbed.
4. Removing asbestos – where can you dispose of it after removal?
Two issues arise here. 1) Safely removing asbestos and preventing your team/ property owners from being exposed/breathing it in, and 2) knowing where to safely dispose of it.
Tip One: Never consider trying to remove the asbestos yourself – always hire someone who is EPA trained, equipped and can prove their qualifications.
Wearing respiratory masks and protective clothing (that is easily disposed of); they will first seal off the area using boarding and double-bagged, heavy duty polythene sheets to create a vacuumed space where no surface area is at risk of exposure from dust. From here they will add a vent to filter out the fibres before removing the contaminated area and double bagging it within polythene bags. These contractors will then take these materials to a licensed disposal site and get rid of it for you. NOTE: this should be performed with no staff or family in the property.
Tip Two: Asbestos is classed as hazardous waste and should not be placed in your dustbin.
Tip Three: Small amounts can be disposed of at Civic Amenity sites.
Tip Four: Always let the professionals dispose of it for you.
5. Getting people to work in this industry
Not many people would naturally choose to work in a role where they are regularly exposed to asbestos – even when safety procedures are practiced and implemented. So as a business that deals with the testing, repair and the removal of asbestos, hiring people can be hard.
Similarly, most contractors have a natural wariness of performing jobs on old properties. That is why it is important that they are told upfront about suspected areas so that they have the freedom to decide whether or not to accept the job. If they have got the training and the tools to handle asbestos materials, many will continue. However, for the safety of their team they must know in advance.
As you can see, dealing with asbestos is no easy task and it is not to be taken lightly. So should you suspect that your property contains asbestos and you require assistance; be sure to hire a professional to handle your investigation so you are not confronted with its numerous problems and issues.
For assistance, contact our team at ICE Asbestos today. Our experts are licensed, trained and insured to work all over the UK, with offices based in Nottingham, Darlington, Birmingham, Leeds and Norwich.