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Staying safe with asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was popular among manufacturers and builders because of its good sound absorption, tensile strength, and its resistance to heat, electrical and chemical damage. Asbestos is common throughout the UK. Inside the home, asbestos is usually found in textured wall and ceiling finishes, such as Artex, vinyl floor tiles and some types of insulation. Outside your home, asbestos can be found in roofing felt and guttering.

When undamaged, materials containing asbestos are largely harmless but when damaged, asbestos fibres can be released into the air in high concentrations which can cause cancer and thickening of the lungs.

The greatest risk is when asbestos is damaged or drilled, sawn, scrubbed or sanded. This type of DIY work can result in brief but high levels of asbestos fibres in the air that put your health at risk. If you think a material might contain asbestos, do not work on it – get expert advice. If asbestos needs to be removed it must be done by a professional company licensed by the Health and Safety Executive.

It is very difficult to identify asbestos. Often it is masked by other materials so you cannot tell whether a product contains asbestos simply by looking at it.

The council keeps an asbestos register and completes surveys to identify it.

If you are a leaseholder and you think there is asbestos in your home you will need to arrange for your own asbestos survey to be carried out. The Health and Safety Executive and Asbestos Removal Contractors Association have a full list of licensed contractors on their website – simply search asbestos licensing.