This leaflet provides useful information about asbestos in homes and answers some of the common questions and concerns about asbestos.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral fibre found naturally in rock. Asbestos fibres are strong and resistant to heat and chemicals. Because of this reason it has been used in a wide range of building materials and consumer goods.
Two of its main uses in the home have been for insulation (thermal and noise) and fire protection.
Because asbestos is a naturally occurring material, the air we breathe will already have very low levels of asbestos fibres in it. Breathing air which has such low levels of fibres in it is unlikely to harm your health.
Where is asbestos found?
Building materials containing asbestos were widely used from 1930 to around 1988, especially from the 1960’s onwards. Houses and flats built or refurbished during this time may have building materials with asbestos in them such as:
- cement sheeting
- sewage and water pipes
- roof fascias and soffits
- insulation boards
- asbestos cement which was widely used as a cladding material and can still be found in some garages and sheds
- asbestos has also been used in some heat-resistant household products, such as oven gloves and ironing boards.
Since the 1980’s the use of asbestos in these products has reduced and since 1992 its use in most products has been banned.
It’s not always easy to tell whether a product contains asbestos as modern asbestos-free products often look
Remember it is usually only older products that contain asbestos.
When might asbestos be a problem?
When asbestos materials get older or damaged they can release fibres into the air. If breathed deep into the lung these fibres may remain there for a long time, causing possible lung damage. When high levels of these fibres are breathed in there is a risk of lung diseases including cancer.
People who worked with asbestos for many years as part of their job or who washed the dusty clothing of those who worked with asbestos were the most likely to be affected. Regulations now protect people in the workplace.
If asbestos material is found in your home it should not pose a health hazard to you provided it is in sound condition (i.e. not flaking or producing visible dust).
Asbestos materials in a stable condition will only become a health risk if the surface is:
- accidentally damaged or
- deliberately drilled, sanded or scrubbed
All of which may release dust containing the fine fibres, which can become airborne and breathed in. For this reason DIY should be avoided where the presence of asbestos materials is suspected.
See the section on DIY for more information.
What should I do if I think there may be asbestos in my home?
If the building material is in good condition and cannot be easily damaged it is best to leave it alone. Removing it can lead to high levels of fibres in the air that can stay there for some time afterwards.
Check the condition of any asbestos materials from time to time to make sure they have not been damaged or started to deteriorate.
If you rent your home from Falkirk Council and we plan to carry out repairs or improvements to your home, where we know there is asbestos, we will always tell our contractors or sub contractors so they can take the necessary precautions.
If you arrange for a contractor (e.g. a joiner or plumber) to do work in your house and you know there is asbestos, you should always tell them.
Asbestos materials that are slightly damaged can sometimes be repaired by sealing or enclosing the material. Ask for advice on the most appropriate action. See contact details at the end of this page.
Asbestos materials that are badly damaged or deteriorating increase the risk of fibre release and should be removed and disposed of safely. If you rent your house from Falkirk Council then we will arrange to do this. If you own your home or rent from a private landlord you can contact our Environmental Protection Unit for advice. See the contact details at the end of this leaflet.
Some asbestos materials, sprayed asbestos, lagging or insulation boards must always be removed by contractors with a special licence issued by the Government. These licensed contractors have to follow regulations to make sure asbestos is removed safely.
Take care when doing DIY
This leaflet is only designed to provide general information on asbestos and does not provide you with sufficient guidance on how to deal with any asbestos products that may be present in your home.
If you think you may have asbestos materials in your home, please contact your local Neighbourhood Office/One Stop Shop or the Environmental Protection Unit for advice before attempting any DIY (contact details are at the end of this leaflet). Useful information can also be found at www.hse.gov.uk (free internet access is available at all public libraries).
- Try not to disturb or damage asbestos materials that are in good condition.
- If you think there is damaged or deteriorating asbestos materials ask for advice on the most appropriate action by phoning one of the contact numbers at the end of this leaflet.
- Never try to dismantle any product containing asbestos material.
Falkirk Council Asbestos Policy
Prior to any repairs being carried out by Falkirk Council, the asbestos register for the property will be checked for materials that contain asbestos.
If no asbestos register exists, and asbestos materials are suspected, a full survey will be undertaken.
Where a survey finds materials that may be a potential risk to the occupants of the property the materials will either be removed or sealed (to prevent the release of any fibres) in accordance with guidance provided by the Health & Safety Executive.
Advice and information
If you think you have found asbestos containing materials in your home or have damaged a part of the fabric of the building that you think may contain asbestos you can get advice from Falkirk Council about the best way to deal with the situation.
If you are a Council tenant you should contact your local One Stop Shop/Advice and Support Hub. An officer will visit your home to investigate and give advice on any necessary action. Any repairs that are needed will be arranged in the usual way.
Private Tenants, Property Owners and Landlords
If you own your home, rent from a private landlord or are a private landlord you should contact:
The Health & Safety Executive
The Health & Safety Executive’s website provides extensive information and advice on working safely with asbestos. Their website address is: www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos