Smart Asbestos Awareness

Where do you find Asbestos?

Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 so you are likely to find Asbestos in buildings built before this date.

Asbestos has been mined for over 2000 years and has been added to many building products. Majority of these Asbestos containing products cannot be identified by the eye but require sampling and sending to a laboratory for testing. 

See the list and photographs of some of the most common building products that you will find asbestos;

Common Locations you find Asbestos

Cement Roof Sheets

1. Profiled Roof Sheets

Profiled Asbestos cement roof sheets have been widely used as roof covering on industrial and agricultural buildings. They contain between 10-15% asbestos.

Chrysotile or “White Asbestos” is the most common form of Asbestos used in the construction of the roof sheets. The Asbestos fibres provide additional tensile strength to the roof sheets and allows the cement to be formed into the iconic corrugated shape.

Asbestos was added to the sheets right up until 1999 when the substance was outlawed in the UK. Crocidolite and Amosite have also been used between 1950 and 1980.

This type of Asbestos containing material is a low risk to health as the asbestos fibres are mixed in with the cement. When the cement roof sheets are cut or damaged they release the fibres into the atmosphere and become a hazard to health.

Asbestos Underliner Panel

2. Roof Underliner Panels

Asbestos cement underliner panels are very similar to cement roof sheets. They are both made in a factory and contain a similar percentage of Asbestos.

The panels sit underneath the external cement roof panels and are held to the frame with a hook bolt.

The purpose of the cement underliner panels is to act as a secondary barrier to the elements and can sometimes contain insulation between the void of the panels and the external roof sheets.

Asbestos Cement Flue

3. Cement Flues

Flues remove extract fumes from boilers and can be seen on a wide range of buildings. The cement flues were made in a factory and come in many different shapes and sizes. They contain up to 15% Asbestos. 

The flue in the photo is in good condition and does not require removal. However, the cement flue will release Asbestos fibres into the atmosphere if damaged and require replacement with a non-asbestos containing product.

Asbestos Cement Gutter

4. Gutters and Downpipes

Gutters and downpipes remove rain water from pitched roofs. Asbestos rainwater goods are common on industrial and agricultural buildings across the UK.

Care must be taken when cleaning out the gutters because there is the potential of releasing the Asbestos fibres bound with the cement.

Asbestos Window Putty

5. Window Putty

The purpose of window putty is to hold the glazing sections in the window frame. The Asbestos fibres were added to provide additional strength to the soft putty material.

The putty has a short life span as it dehydrates and shrinks in the sun.

Asbestos Window Panels

6. Infill Window Panels

It is common to see Asbestos infill window panels below the glazing of 1960-1980s buildings. These were a cost-effective option because they could be quickly installed and required less bricks below the windows which cut material costs.

The window panels are a low risk product but have a poor energy efficiency rating because they do not incorporate insulation. They are often replaced with a superior window, which includes a new insulated infill panel and is free from Asbestos.

Asbestos Soffit Board - Where do you find asbestos?

7. Soffit Boards and Ceiling Tiles

Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB) are factory made boards which can contain up to 40% Asbestos. The water resistance of the boards made them ideal for soffits and ceiling tiles.

AIB is classed as high-risk material because thousands of Asbestos fibres can easily be released if drilled, sawn or damaged. If the soffit boards or tiles are in good condition then they can be left in place.

Crocidolite and Amosite where the Asbestos additive, which are the two most dangerous forms of Asbestos. 

Asbestos Damp Proof Course

8. Damp Proof Course (DPC)

Bitumen based damp proof courses commonly contain Asbestos. The purpose of the damp proof course is to stop water from rising up the wall.

Asbestos is bound in the bitumen to produce a rigid and strong material that will withstand the pressure of the wall bearing down.

Asbestos damp proof courses pose a very low exposure risk because they are built into the wall during construction. The bricks and mortar provide protection and the bitumen locks the Asbestos fibres in place.

Asbestos Sink Pad

9. Sink Pads

Sink pads sit underneath the sink and reduce the vibration from the water hitting the metal. They are easy to spot by their black appearance, but you cannot identify whether they contain Asbestos by eye.

The asbestos helps bind the bitumen to form the rectangular shape. Asbestos consultants regularly recommend that the pads are left in place as they posing a low risk.

Asbestos Floor Tiles

10. Floor Tiles

You commonly find asbestos in old vinyl floor tiles. They can contain between 7-25% Asbestos but the fibres cannot be seen by the naked eye. Only a laboratory will be able to confirm whether asbestos is present.

The Asbestos floor tiles can also have an asbestos paper backing and be stuck to the floor using Asbestos bitumen adhesive.

Asbestos Bitumen Adhesive

11. Bitumen Adhesive

The bitumen is black in colour but the Asbestos fibres cannot be seen because they only make up to 8% of the mixture.

The purpose of bitumen adhesive is to stick vinyl floor tiles to the floor and ensure that they don't move when walked on.

Bitumen adhesive is relatively safe in comparison to other types of asbestos products and should not be removed unless necessary. Majority of the time the bitumen will be overlaid with a new floor covering and recorded in the Asbestos Management Plan to ensure that it is not disturbed.

Asbestos Toilet Cistern

12. Toilet Seats & Cisterns

Toilet cisterns and seats are another common place you find Asbestos. They are usually black in colour and made by mixing plastic or resin with asbestos.

This material poses a low risk to health as the asbestos fibres are kept in place by the plastic. The toilet seats and cistern can be left in place if they are in good condition.

Asbestos Fuses

13. Electrical Fuses

You can easily find the asbestos in the old fuses as shown in the above and the material by their white appearance.

The 100% woven Asbestos flash pad plays an important role in the fuse; When the fuse blows the asbestos pad stops the spark from jumping and starting a fire.

The fuses are often replaced with a non-asbestos alternative because the woven asbestos is friable and poses a high risk.

Asbestos Gasket

14. Gaskets

A gasket acts as a seal between two surfaces. Asbestos’ heat resistant properties make it an ideal material to be made into a gasket. You commonly find Asbestos gaskets in old gas boilers and heaters.

In the photograph you can see the 100% asbestos gasket on the outside of the gas heater.

Gaskets fall under the classification of a high-risk Asbestos containing product. Its friable and fragile nature means that the gasket can easily release fibres into the air posing an inhalation risk.

Asbestos Partitions (AIB)

15. Partition Linings

Nowadays partitions are lined with plasterboard but this was not always the case. Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB) was once a common choice for creating partition walls.

The AIB is rich in asbestos and releases thousands of fibres if disturbed. Many building owners choose to remove the AIB because there is a high chance that it will be damaged and become a hazard to health.