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Asbestos in Property

May 2, 2022

In this week’s Surveying Blog post we will be looking at Asbestos, where you can find Asbestos, the different types, the potentially fatal health issues it could cause and the historic use of the material.

Asbestos, What is it?

Asbestos is natural silicate rock forming mineral, meaning it’s a natural material which comes directly from the earth. The material is notoriously made up of flexible fibres that are resistant to heat, electric and corrosion which explains why the mineral was once upon time frequently desired.

Asbestos was especially widely used in construction as an effective insulator, and it was universally applied to cloth, paper, cement ,metals, plastic, and other materials as it acts as an effective strengthener.

However, although highly valuable for many reasons, the major drawback of Asbestos is that the mineral itself is highly toxic, and unfortunately kills around 5000 people every year, most being tradesmen, as Asbestos can be found in any building, built before the year 2000 (houses, factories, offices, schools, hospitals etc).

Why is Asbestos dangerous?

When Asbestos fibres are inhaled or ingested, the fibres can easily become permanently trapped within the body. Over time, the fibres can spread and can cause inflammation, scarring and eventually genetic damage.

The chilling reality associated with Asbestos is that no amount of exposure to the substance is actually safe, however, generally speaking, it’s known that the harshest effects tend to be when individuals are exposed to an intense concentration of Asbestos, or they are exposed to Asbestos on a regular basis over a long period of time.

Consistent exposure to Asbestos can cause a number of illnesses, which I have listed a few below:

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract. This cancer, 9 times out of 10, is almost absolutely a result of Asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, its generally always fatal.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to Asbestos fibres over many years, smokers generally fall victim to this as smoking over a long period of time would cause Asbestosis as the fibbers are present within Cigarettes.

Asbestosis can cause progressive shortness of breath, chest tightness, and in severe cases can be fatal. The fibres are easily inhaled once they become airborne, so It is very vital to avoid disturbing products that may contain asbestos.

Asbestosis is known to be closely interlinked with Lung cancer.

Asbestos-related lung cancer is very similar to cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.

Currently, there is no known cure to reverse the damages asbestos causes, hence why it’s no longer legally in use universally.

How does it look? Can it be quickly identified?

Asbestos was usually implemented into other materials for its durable capabilities, so unfortunately, you can never really ever know if Asbestos is present within a product or material unless you have some insight into the finer details of the products origins or material itself. Furthermore, Microscopic Asbestos fibres cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted.

Generally speaking, other than a product or material being clearly marked as “Asbestos”, the only way to detect its presence within an unmarked material is to send a sample to a lab for testing or hire an accredited Asbestos inspector.

However, it’s not all bad news, key points that can be noted is that Asbestos commonly falls into two risk factors:

Friable asbestos materials:

Friable Asbestos materials are usually soft by touch and are easy to break or crumble by hand. These materials are particularly dangerous because they can easily release toxic particles into the air with little to no effort or in many cases by accident.

Nonfriable Asbestos materials:

Nonfriable Asbestos materials are the complete opposite and are usually very durable. Material such as. Asbestos cement slabs or tiles should come to mind. These products keep Asbestos fibers relatively safely trapped as long as the products are undisturbed. Sanding, sawing, scraping, or smashing this products or material will release fibers thus causing a health hazard as the small fibers are easily made airborne.

Where you can find asbestos presence in Residential Properties:

Inside Property

  • Water tank coating
  • Pipe lagging
  • Loose fill insulation
  • Textured decorative coating 
  • Ceiling or bathroom tiles
  • Bath panels
  • Toilet seat and cistern
  • Behind fuse boxes
  • Airing cupboard and/or sprayed insulation coating boiler
  • Partition walls
  • interior window panel  
  • Lagging around boilers

Outside

  • Gutters and Asbestos cement downpipes
  • Soffits
  • Exterior window panel
  • Roof Coverings
  • Panels
  • Roofing felt
  • Floor Slabs

Unfortunately, there’s no guide book on how to quickly identify or approach Asbestos as it can be merely impossible at times to determine whether or not its present within a product or material.

I am of the opinion that at the very least you should be aware of where Asbestos is likely to found, furthermore, as a rule of thumb , wear personal protective equipment must be worn in situations which involve materials being cut in to, sanded, sawed, or tamped with.

Asbestos is one of the more common materials that our surveyors see on a daily basis during their property inspections. It can be a particular concern if you’re purchasing a property as it will need to removed or worked around.

If you think you’ve got asbestos in your property, or think it may be in a property you’re planning on purchasing, give our team of Chartered Surveyors a call today.

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