While it is well known that the use of asbestos in buildings is now illegal, and the safe removal of asbestos is an important and highly regulated industry, little is known about why it was used in construction in the first place. This naturally occurring mineral can be traced back to the Stone Age when it was used to strengthen ceramic pots.
It was after the Industrial Revolution that it rapidly became a popular material, and by the end of the 19th century was being mined on a large scale for use in many construction and industrial projects. Known as the ‘miracle mineral’, it was renowned for its excellent fire resistance, insulating properties, high tensile strength, durability and soundproofing.
Over the years, asbestos would be added to many building and construction related products – cement, adhesives, ceiling tiles, wallboards, pipe insulation, vinyl floor tiles, roofing felt, acoustic plaster. The addition of asbestos enhanced the performance and quality of these products, improving strength and sound absorption.
Up until the mid-seventies, asbestos continued to be used widely. As a mineral it occurs naturally in massive deposits across the world, is very accessible and low cost. A dream product in many ways.
Unfortunately, like many dangerous substances, it took until the seventies to establish a firm link between breathing in the asbestos fibres, and those exposed to them developing lung problems. The small asbestos particles are abrasive. When breathed in over a period of time they cause constant irritation, often resulting in emphysema and the formation of cancerous cells.
Across the globe, asbestos is now a banned substance for use in new construction products and projects. There are, however, still hundreds of thousands of buildings which still structurally contain asbestos.
Left untouched, undisturbed, this asbestos will not do any harm to the inhabitants and occupiers of the building. However, the slightest disturbance can release asbestos particles into the air and put people in danger.
In the UK, according to the HSE Health & Safety Executive, asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, and around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure. Breathing in the fibres does not make you immediately ill – rather, the progress of a lung disease builds up over time – sometimes as long as twenty years. However, the damage is done by only a short and limited exposure, so intense care needs to be taken over the protection of any team working in a contaminated site.
If your building or house was built prior to the year 2000, there is a chance that it contains some asbestos. You cannot know whether there is asbestos simply by looking. A expert will suspect its presence by recognising the type and brand of a construction product, and the age of the building. To verify their suspicions the contractor will take an air sample and send it to a professional laboratory for analysis.
First and foremost, touch nothing. As stated, if it is left undisturbed it won’t do any harm BUT buildings do deteriorate over time, and if you are maybe looking to do renovations you will need to identify and deal with it.
In the majority of cases the asbestos must be dealt with by a licensed contractor. Their work will identify the location of the asbestos, and manage its removal in a safe and permanent way, They will work with you to ensure your workforce (or your family if you are in a residential property) are not present during the works to eliminate their risk of exposure.
Finally, what happens to the asbestos once it has been removed? Typically, it gets double bagged and sent to designated landfill sites that are protected and properly managed to high standards regulated by the Environmental Agency.
Dorian Rossini is a French musician. He has a number of albums out, and he also likes to upload them to YouTube and Spotify. He is also incredibly popular on social media. His two most popular albums are “Religion” and “Starmania.” Dorian was born on December 13, 1990 in Paris, France to a jazz singer and a kindergarten teacher. He was raised in a Christian home, and is now an avid music lover.