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The trend in renovating your house yourself rather than hiring a contractor is on the increase. The enjoyment and satisfaction of completing a project yourself is very appealing, however…..
Have you thought about asbestos?
Do you know where to look for it?
What do I do if I find it?
These are all questions you should answer before starting any works to avoid putting yourself or others at risk of exposure.
Houses built before 2000, have the potential to contain asbestos products. In the UK, asbestos was used extensively as fire-proofing, insulation and numerous different types of building materials all included asbestos in some form. Below is a diagram showing common locations you might find asbestos.
Before starting any refurbishment works, we recommend sampling any materials suspected to be asbestos or if you are unsure if there is likely to be any, call and asbestos contractor. This will allow you to find out its contents and if it requires removal by a licensed asbestos contractor. If the sample comes back as non-asbestos, you can continue your plans to refurbish your home by yourself.
If asbestos is found, it does not mean it needs to be removed. If the asbestos is in good condition and is not going to be disturbed by any part of the refurbishment, it can be left in. However, if the asbestos is likely to be disturbed, it may release harmful fibres into the air that can cause and asbestos related illness. You should then contact an asbestos removal company to advise you on the product and the next steps to take.
Think Asbestos, It Is A Hidden Killer
What is asbestos?
Asbestos refers to a set of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. The most common found being chrysotile and amosite asbestos . Asbestos minerals are made up of fine, durable fibers and are resistant to heat, fire and many chemicals. All six types of asbestos minerals have common characteristics. All forms of the mineral are odorless and tasteless. When asbestos is present in a material or product, it cannot be detected on a visual examination alone. It must be tested in a laboratory under microscopes.
Why is it dangerous?
Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, this is more than the number of people killed on the road.
When products that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. This is why it is important that you protect yourself now.
Exposure can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Asbestosis is the scarring of the lung tissue, which restricts breathing leading to decreased lung volume and increase resistance in the airways.
Lung Cancer is a malignant tumor of the lungs air passages. The tumour grows through surrounding tissue, invading and often obstructing air passages.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells that make up the lining around the outside of the lungs and inside of the ribs or around the abdominal organ.
Symptoms of potential asbestos disease
- shortness of breath
- a cough or change in cough pattern
- blood in sputum coughed up from the lungs
- pain in the chest of abdomen
- difficulty swallowing or prolonged hoarseness
- significant weight loss
If you have any concerns about the above symptoms, it is recommended to consult a doctor.
There are different types of the deadly disease mesothelioma, Esophageal is one not most commonly known but can cause sever problems. This form of mesothelioma attacks the esophagus and comes in two different forms.
What is Esophageal Mesothelioma?
The cancer can attack either the voice box or the oropharynx more commonly known as the space at the back of the mouth. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of cancer found in this case. It is when the cells that line the esophagus mutate and become cancerous.
The other form of esophageal mesothelioma is Adenocarcinoma. This is when the cancer strikes the lower portion of the esophagus and it is the glandular tissue that is affected rather than the lining.
Signs and Symptoms
The initial symptoms for esophagus mesothelioma is usually the heaviness or fullness to the throat, hoarseness and difficulty swallowing. There can also be deep pain to the throat and in very severe cases vomiting. As this form of cancer develops, the patient will find it difficult to eating and in some cases they will struggle to speak.
It is essential that sufferers see a doctor as soon as they develop any of the noted symptoms as treatment for mesothelioma cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation and also surgery. There is yet to be a cure found for this deadly disease and once diagnosed, the usual life expectancy is not usually possible.
Personal sampling or air monitoring is required for a representative range of jobs and work methods to protect the health of employees.
Personal monitoring involves checking the concentration of airborne fibres employees are being exposed to during works. It allows us to confirm the use of adequate controls and RPE are being used for the required job. It also allows us to check fibre levels are not likely to exceed the control limit of 0.6 f/cm³ over a 10 minute period.
Records of air monitoring should be kept on file for 5 years, except that where employees are under medical surveillance. These record require to be kept for 40 years.
It might seem incredible to us now that we are aware of its dangers, but during the first half of the twentieth century asbestos was used in a variety of products not just building materials. Back in the 1930s – 1950s asbestos was used to make fake snow products that was used as a Christmas decoration. Its heat-resistant properties meant it was thought to be a lower fire risk than alternatives.
During the filming of ‘The Wizard of OZ’ in 1939 asbestos snow was used in the scene in which the wicked witch placed Dorothy and her friends under a sleeping spell in a poppy field. Another film in which the product was used was the Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby, in the final scene showed the actor singing with snow falling all around him.The effects in both films was created by showering the performers with chrysotile asbestos fibers, which resembles snow and was often used in those days not only on movie sets and in theaters, but in department store displays and even private homes. From the mid-1930s through the 1950s, asbestos was seen as a very versatile and harmless substance.
In the 1950s asbestos was also used in the filters of some cigarettes and also shockingly as an ingredient in toothpaste! It was apparently used due to the abrasive quality of its fibres. ‘Ipana’ toothpaste was created by Bristol-Meyers and was extremely popular in the 1950s. An actor from the film Grease sang the advert’s jingle while Disney created a character to be the product’s mascot! Bucky Beaver became the face of the toothpaste brand.
After World War 2 surgeons began using asbestos thread to stitch up the wounds of patients. It was no doubt chosen for its high tensile strength and flexibility. If someone was having heart or lung surgery you may find their incisions would have been closed using this thread, knowing the information we know today, the linked problem between the lungs and asbestos this method may well have caused more harm than good.
Around 4,500 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Airborne fibres can become lodged in the lungs and digestive tract, and can lead to lung cancer or other diseases, but symptoms may not appear for several decades.
Tradesmen who could be effected are plumbers, electricians, gas engineers, roofers, painter/decorators, joiners, plasterers, building maintenance works and many more. The majority of tradesmen have admitted to rarely checking before they begin works that there is no asbestos present within the building and nearly a third of all these trades mistakenly believe asbestos has been removed for all UK buildings.
People working within these trades are recommended to have asbestos awareness training however this is not a legal requirement. Without the correct training these tradesmen might not realise they are directly working with asbestos and exposing themselves and the public to fibre release. With asbestos awareness training they will be able identify items that may contain asbestos and the risks that comes with it. They will be able stop works before disturbing the product and contact a specialist removal company to remove the item for the job to continue.
Asbestos is still present in millions of homes and commercial properties across the UK. Despite what people may believe (or hope) asbestos is still very much a problem of today.
Asbestos is responsible for a number of different forms of cancer as well as other severe illnesses. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to:
- Asbestosis – severe scarring of the lungs caused by high levels of exposure to asbestos fibres. The scarring causes the lungs to shrink, resulting in breathlessness.
- Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer – asbestos related lung cancer develops in the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.
- Mesothelioma – cancer of lining in your chest and abdomen. Even low levels of exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma and unfortunately the disease is incurable.
- Pleural thickening – scaring of the lung lining (pleura) covers a large area and the lining thickens and swells. This causes breathlessness and discomfort due to the lung to being squeezed.
Respirable fibres – the fibres that can be inhaled – are about 100-1000 times smaller than a human hair and are therefore too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Asbestos remains a main cause of work related fatalities with a staggering 4,000 people losing their lives every year. This figure has climbed over the years from a consistent 2,000 to the single biggest industrial killer the UK has ever seen.
Remember, asbestos does not discriminate. You could be a famous movie star, a world class racer, or an athlete. So, when it comes to asbestos, call in the professionals; who have the experience and qualifications to handle asbestos.
For more information about asbestos-related illnesses, click here to visit British Lung Foundation or for asbestos services in Scotland give us a call on 0141 842 8070.
Senior doctors have warned that the peak for asbestos is expected in 2015 to 2020 when the death rate is likely to be 2,000 per year in the UK.
Asbestos related diseases are known to take years after being exposed before symptoms appear – rarely less that 25 years and often be more than 50 years. As a result, the number of cases exposed to asbestos before 1980, when asbestos was still legally used, is set to reach be at the highest starting from this year.
Diseases caused by asbestos exposure include mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and pleural thickening. Find out more about the dangers of asbestos here.
Now banned in the UK, asbestos is still a huge risk as it remains in many buildings, from Schools and Universities to Industrial buildings and warehouses. People working in construction, maintenance or demolition are often at risk of coming into contact with asbestos dust.
Today, we are able to prevent the risks of asbestos by managing it safely. Three key steps to prevent asbestos exposure when it comes to asbestos:
- Wear Protective Gear whenever asbestos is suspected
- Any clothes worn while working with asbestos should be left at site
- When dealing with asbestos, correct removal methods should be followed and carried out by fully trained, experienced individuals to ensure complete safety (that’s where we come in)
Under CAR 2012, there is a duty to undertake a risk assessment to assess the potential for fibre release from any asbestos containing materials (ACMs) – especially if they are likely to be disturbed. If asbestos is in good condition and is not likely to be damaged and is not like to be worked on or disturbed, it is sometimes safer to leave it in place and manage it.
Asbestos was extensively used as a building material from 1950s through to late 1980s. It was used for hundreds of purposes before being banned in the UK in 1999.
Asbestos doesn’t discriminate — houses, factories, schools, hospitals, offices built or refurbished before the year 2000 are all at risk of containing asbestos.
Types of asbestos you might come across in the home include; Asbestos Cement on an old garage roof, Asbestos Textured Coating on walls and ceilings, Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) on soffits or on the panel below a window.
This being said, it’s not easy to tell if materials contain asbestos simply by looking at them. Asbestos can only be deterred in a specialist laboratory.
Qualified asbestos operatives are able to take a small 10 pence sized sample of the material which is then analysed by a UKAS accredited laboratory to determine if asbestos is present, and if so, what type of asbestos.
Asbestos fibres are not affected by heat or chemicals, and they do not conduct electricity. They are stronger than steel and quite resilient. It is these reasons asbestos was deemed ideal for use in building materials.
There are a number of different types of asbestos world-wide, but there are three main types of asbestos; Chrysotile (white), Amosite (brown) and Crocidolite (blue).
Asbestos was widely used in building materials and for insulation, fireproofing and sound absorption. It was used to insulate buildings and ships, for car parts, household appliances and even used in power stations. Asbestos was also used in woven fabrics, cloaks, suits for fire protection, brake shoes, air filters in hospital ventilators, cigarette tips and military gas masks.
This of course was before the health hazards of asbestos came to light – asbestos in all forms is now classified in the UK as a Category 1 Carcinogen.