Find and remove asbestos

Lurking in many buildings, the safe removal and disposal of asbestos is a must. But how do you spot it, and what do you do with it once it's found?


What is asbestos?

Asbestos is made up of long, thin fibrous crystals. It is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that was used extensively in homes, offices, garages and other buildings during the 1950s to the mid-1980s primarily because of its resistance to heat, its sound insulation properties and its strength.

Where would I find it?

Asbestos was used in a great many products and materials, such as cement, insulation boards, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roofs, panels, laggings and pipes. Don't just assume that because your house pre-dates the 1950s that it won't be in there, too. Renovations done during the 1950s onwards on older houses may well have included asbestos as a material. And some Asbestos products were still on sale in South Africa up until the 1908's.

What does asbestos look like?

It's not easy to describe asbestos, because it's often impregnated into other building materials

Why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos is only dangerous if you breathe in high levels of asbestos fibres, or if you are working on or near damaged asbestos. If you suspect you are working in area where there may be asbestos, or you come across a material that you believe may be asbestos, stop working and seek advice. Asbestos is generally not dangerous if it lies undisturbed or has not perished, cracked or chipped.

Where is asbestos found?

* Asbestos cement – found in roofs, wall cladding, flues and ventilation systems.

* Textured coatings.

* Found under carpets, fuse boxes, under tiles and inside metal cladding.

* Partition walls, fire-proofing panels, ceiling tiles, panels below windows.

* Loose fill asbestos - found in between cavity walls and under floorboards.

Should I go looking for it?

It’s not advisable to go looking for asbestos unless you believe it has been used and may have perished or be unsafe, because undisturbed asbestos usually poses no problems. Often, and a major reason why people often don’t know they have been exposed to it, it is difficult to tell the difference between asbestos insulating board items and non-asbestos materials, such as wall panels boards, ceiling tiles and plasterboard.

How do I protect myself?

Firstly, if you are suspicious that something may be asbestos, simply don’t begin to work on it. Even if you are not suspicious, use protective equipment, including a suitable face mask, worn properly, when you are tackling demolition jobs. Wear a disposable overall, wash thoroughly and often, particularly your hands and face. Never sand, drill or saw asbestos materials.

How do I dispose of asbestos?

Never just chuck it in a skip. Make sure you double bag debris and dispose of it properly at a municipal tip.