Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was used in building construction and other specialised uses. Its properties of resistance to fire, alkali and acid led to its wide usage up to the early 1970s. In recognition of its potentially hazardous nature some types have already been banned and substitute materials are now available. There are three main types of asbestos: Crocidolite ('blue asbestos'), Amosite ('brown asbestos') and Chrysotile ('white asbestos'). Brown and blue asbestos are known to be more dangerous than white asbestos but you cannot distinguish types of asbestos by colour alone. Asbestos products change colour depending on the way they have been manufactured or treated.
Uses of asbestos
Often found in corrugated roofs of sheds or garages, roofing tiles, eaves, gutters, water tanks and flues.
Often found on pipe or boiler lagging.
Used for fire-proofing cladding, thermal insulation board and acoustic panels.
Typically found on soffits to communal walkways in blocks of flats and underground car parks for fire protection.
If you are in any doubt as to whether asbestos is present or if you are working on a product known to contain asbestos, you should leave it alone and seek advice from:
- a licensed asbestos removal company
- the Health and Safety Executive
- Ealing Council
The mere presence of asbestos does not necessarily create a health risk. The risk arises from breathing in microscopic asbestos fibres released through mishandling, or in areas where it is subject to heavy wear. These notes apply to structures such as sheds and garages. Asbestos cement normally contains from about 5 to 10% Chrysotile (white asbestos) by weight.
Do not attempt to remove:
- soft asbestos
- asbestos insulating board (similar to plaster board)
- sprayed asbestos coating
The above should be dealt with by a professional stripping company licensed by the Health and Safety Executive. The Asbestos Removal Contractors Association gives details on local contractors. The work has to be undertaken in accordance with a strict code of practice involving the use of specialised equipment and protective clothing.
If asbestos material is in good order and repair - leave it alone! In attempting to remove it you are likely to create the potentially hazardous dust. You are recommended to use one of the following remedies:
- seal and paint - prime asbestos sheet with alkali resistant primer. Finish off with emulsion or gloss paint. Do not sand or scrape the material before painting
- cover sheet asbestos with wallpaper (fixed with a strong adhesive) or with hardboard
- seal and paint with a bitumastic paint, for example, Aquaseal or Synthaprufe
- seal with PVA adhesive, for example, Unibond
Asbestos removal contractor - more expensive than the other options but they will have the knowledge, expertise and equipment to do the job and disposal. These must be used for removing all types of asbestos other than asbestos cement.
General builder - many builders can remove asbestos cement without needing licensed persons. They must, however, adhere to safe working methods and make provision for proper disposal.
Do-it-Yourself - you must plan the job, obtain materials and equipment and make arrangements for disposal. Most jobs can be done relatively safely if you pay attention to detail.
Removal of asbestos cement (for example, corrugated shed roof or garages)
Householders remove asbestos cement products provided that the following precautions are observed:
- keep everyone out of the work area who does not need to be there
- thoroughly soak the material before starting work. You are advised to introduce a suitable wetting agent, for example, washing-up liquid, into the water before saturation
- do not use power tools, use hand tools only
- carefully undo fixing bolts, screws etc. and remove panels complete
- avoid breaking asbestos-containing material into small pieces, i.e. do not use hammers or drop materials from heights into refuse skips
- stack the removed sheets in the open and cover with plastic sheeting
- never sweep asbestos pieces - use a vacuum cleaner that complies with BS 5145, known as type 'H' (available from hire shops)
- put pieces in stout plastic sacks and seal
- always work in well-ventilated areas
- persons handling asbestos should wear hooded disposable over-clothing, and thoroughly wash exposed skin on completion of the work. You are advised to hire from a reputable hire shop (see Yellow Pages telephone directory) a suitable dust mask specified for asbestos dust (reference FFP 3)
Disposal of asbestos
Do not put asbestos waste into the dustbin. There are special arrangements for the disposal of asbestos waste. Asbestos cement must be disposed of at a site licensed to accept it. Ealing residents can take their own 'household asbestos cement' to: West Waste Civic Amenity Site, Victoria Road, South Ruislip, Middlesex. Tel: (020) 8841 4546.
This site will not accept commercial waste, i.e. generated through business. The Corporation of London provides a free service for the collection of limited amounts of household asbestos in the London area. The asbestos must be wrapped in heavy gauge polythene in quantities that can be lifted by one person. For further details on the service, or to arrange a collection, telephone (020) 7332 3433.
If you see what may be asbestos dumped in the street anywhere in the borough, please contact environmental services on (020) 8825 6000.
If you see what may be asbestos dumped in any other location in the borough, please contact pollution control at the environmental health department on (020) 8825 6633.
If you have any queries or require further information, please telephone pollution control at the environmental health department on (020) 8825 6633 and an environmental health officer will help you. Whilst we cannot sample or analyse any material, we can inspect it and offer the appropriate advice. If you are unsure whether some material in your home is asbestos, please refer below to the details of contractors who will sample and analyse the material for you (there will be a charge for this service).
You could also check the website of the Health and Safety Executive.
Firms that sample and analyse suspect material
There will be a charge for this service - further details available from the companies.
Note: this does not imply a commercial recommendation by this authority.
Tel: (020) 8946 8621