Asbestos Facts: Types of asbestos

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. There are three types that have proven to be commercially useful.

Chrysotile - White asbestos

Chrysotile – White Asbestos

Amosite/Grunerite - Brown Asbestos

Amosite/Grunerite – Brown Asbestos

Crocidolite - Blue Asbestos

Crocidolite – Blue Asbestos

Asbestos has been attractive to the construction industry because of its physical strength, thermal and electrical insulation properties, non-combustibility and resistance to chemical erosion.

Blue and brown asbestos are the two most dangerous forms and have been banned in the UK since 1985. White asbestos has been banned from general use since 1999. Although it is still used for a small number of specialised applications.

How do I know if I’ve found Asbestos?

It is impossible to determine if a material contains asbestos just by looking at it. There are over 3500 uses for asbestos in construction and building. 85% of commercial buildings contain asbestos in their structure. It occurs in many guises, some of the more common forms are:

  • Sprayed or loose packed in ceiling voids
  • Sprayed coatings and lagging of pipes and boilers
  • Sprayed coating for fire protection and insulation in ducts, partitions etc and around structural steel
  • Insulation boards used for fire wall partitions, fire doors and ceiling tiles
  • Asbestos cement for roof sheeting, cold water tanks, gutters, pipes and in decorative plaster finishes

Asbestos can also be found in brake linings, floor coverings, fire blankets, toilet cisterns, storage heaters and a wide range of other products.

Asbestos Facts: I’ve found Asbestos – what do I do?

Do you think you have found Asbestos? Please call Zeras to get some advice. We may need to conduct a survey. An asbestos survey is an effective way to help you manage asbestos in your premises. Our surveys provide accurate information about the location, amount and type of any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

While not a legal requirement, it is recommended that you arrange a survey if you suspect there are ACMs in your premises. Alternatively, you may choose to presume there is asbestos in your premises and would then need to take all appropriate precautions for any work that takes place. However, it is good practice to have an asbestos survey carried out so you can be absolutely sure whether asbestos is present or not.

An asbestos survey identifies:

  • The location of any asbestos-containing materials in the building
  • The type of asbestos they contain
  • The condition these materials are in

Asbestos Facts: Is my health at risk?

Asbestos is classed as a hazardous substance. It only causes risk to human health when the fibres are released and inhaled. In other words, asbestos in good condition is not a risk unless it is disturbed in some way that would release fibres. For example, during drilling the fibres may be released in a cloud that is not visible to the human eye. As a result, some of the microscopic fibres are small enough to pass through the lungs and into the lower abdominal cavity.

Asbestos kills over 4000 people each year in the UK. Furthermore, this figure is expected to rise to over 10,000 in the next three years. Inhaling the fibres causes diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Symptoms can occur from 15 to 60 years after exposure. Most noteworthy: there is no treatment for asbestos related disease. It is known that high level exposure will cause disease; however the consequences of low level exposure are not fully understood.