For more than a decade, asbestos has been banned in the UK. The 1999 legislation outlawing the use of newly manufactured asbestos products was a huge step in preventing modern day asbestos exposure, but that doesn’t mean that asbestos threats are entirely a thing of the past.

While new construction products are no longer allowed to contain asbestos, many homes still include the original asbestos-containing production materials. According to the Health and Safety Executive, “Asbestos may be part of any commercial or domestic building which was built or refurbished before the year 2000.”

Because of the potential for asbestos exposure, owners of such properties should be aware of the asbestos-containing areas in their home and learn how to prevent the asbestos from becoming friable.

What Asbestos-Containing Materials Could Be in Your Home?

Before the asbestos ban, thousands of common products were made with asbestos. The fiber was primarily used as an insulating ingredient in home construction materials. Some of the most common products that were once made with asbestos include:

  • Roof shingles
  • Flooring tiles
  • Wallboard
  • Fibreboard
  • Paint
  • Spray-on adhesives
  • Insulation

Some of these asbestos products (especially tiles and cement) are clearly labeled, but many others do not bear any warnings at all. Because asbestos is not identifiable to the naked eye, homeowners must assume that these products contain asbestos unless testing confirms otherwise.

Preventing Asbestos Exposure

Your home is safe from asbestos exposure as long as asbestos-containing products remain undisturbed. Asbestos that is sealed within a product is considered “non-friable” and does not pose a threat to residents. For this reason, products containing non-friable asbestos should be left alone to prevent an unnecessary exposure risk.

However, asbestos can easily become a health hazard if the material is damaged and fibres are released into the air. This can happen if asbestos-containing materials are cracked, chipped, torn, scraped, drilled or sawed through.

To prevent asbestos from becoming friable, do not renovate or repair potentially contaminated asbestos construction products without first having them inspected by an abatement company. Licensed asbestos professionals can safely take samples of the products and send them to an accredited lab to determine whether or not they actually contain asbestos.

While the material is being sampled, do not handle the suspicious material until lab reports confirm that it does not contain asbestos. Do not perform any home renovations until an abatement company has completed an inspection and removed or encapsulated any materials that are found to contain asbestos.

What to Do if You Accidentally Disturb Asbestos in Your Home

First and foremost, if you accidentally damage an asbestos-containing product, immediately stop handling the product and exit the area. Alert any other members of the home about the asbestos exposure risk and keep them out of the area.

Remove the clothing and footwear you were wearing when you came into contact with the asbestos and place them in a sealed bag. Thoroughly shower to remove any dust or debris from your skin and hair. Immediately contact an abatement company to come complete remedial action on the product.

At your next visit to your general practitioner, inform your doctor about the incident. Your doctor can make a note in your medical file and arrange for asbestos cancer screenings throughout your future.

Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.