Environmental Protection - Asbestos

Asbestos is a fire-resistant mineral once used in building construction, insulation and home products that has been found to pose a health hazard. If your property is more than 15 years old, it's possible that it contains materials made from asbestos. Common locations are listed below but there may be others in your home - so if in doubt leave well alone and seek expert help.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have produced a number of leaflets appropriate for businesses.

If you aren't confident about safely working with asbestos - we would advise using a licensed contractor - who would be able to test for asbestos and safely remove it.  CORMAC Consultancy offer a commercial service in relation to asbestos and have their own laboratory services that can test samples for asbestos, and carry out clearance tests following removal to ensure safety.  There are a number of companies that offer such services and we would recommend that you speak with a number of them to ensure you are getting the best service at a reasonable cost.

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There are many uses of asbestos to be found within and around the home the most commonly found are asbestos cement products.

Asbestos cement is a hard brittle greyish material. As it’s name suggests, asbestos cement is a combination of cement and asbestos.  The actual asbestos content may range between 10 -15% of which may be either white, brown or blue asbestos.

Its uses around the home include:

  • Flat or corrugated sheets used mainly for roofing
  • Soffit and facia boards for garages and sheds
  • As a lining cladding for fire protection
  • Cold water storage tanks
  • External rainwater pipes and guttering
  • For internal partition walls

Asbestos cement products in good condition present no health hazard. However, when the material becomes damaged, broken or when worked upon, e.g. drilling, sanding or sawing, asbestos fibres will be released.  Asbestos fibres may be released when the material becomes friable through age.

Breathing the released asbestos fibres is dangerous. Within industry, a safe maximum level of exposure to asbestos has been agreed. It is best however, to avoid all exposure to asbestos.

There is no known danger associated with the ingestion of fibres from asbestos cement water supply pipes and/or storage tanks.

What should you do with Asbestos Cement Products?

Leave alone and manage

If the material is in good condition and is unlikely to be damaged, it should be left in place and monitored to ensure it’s continuing safety.

Painting asbestos cement material inside the home can help to seal the material and prevent damage and fibres being released.

If you decide to paint over asbestos cement, use an alkali resistant primer or coating. Never rub down the asbestos before painting, this will release asbestos fibres.

If the asbestos cement product has been fitted for fire protection, a fire retardant paint should be used.

Removal and Disposal of Asbestos Cement Products

Small quantities of asbestos cement may be removed safely by yourself providing you follow the guidance below.

  • Clear the area
  • Put down a polythene sheet to catch the debris
  • Wear an appropriate dust mask and disposable coverall. Your hardware shop should be able to advise you on the types available. If you are unable to obtain a disposable coverall it is advisable to wear a pair of overalls and wash them separately immediately after use.
  • Wet the area with either a damp cloth or water sprayer. If a cloth is used, it must be disposed of after. Putting a little washing up liquid in then water will help bond the dust.

Never use water near electricity.

  • If possible, remove the fixings, i.e. bolts, nails etc. from the sheet and take the product down whole. Do not break the sheets.
  • Place the asbestos in a plastic bag or seal it with polythene sheeting. Mark the bag ‘Asbestos’.  Only double bag article. Try not to break up.
  • Wipe the area down with a wet cloth and again dispose of with the asbestos waste.
  • Wash yourself on completion of the task.
  • Contact the nearest Tip licensed to dispose of asbestos and inform them that you wish to bring in a quantity of asbestos cement.  For your nearest tip please view our Household waste and recycling centres pageYou can also find your nearest centre by entering your postcode on our my area page.

If the item removed provided fire or heat protection, it must be replaced immediately with a suitable alternative.

With materials other than asbestos cement, it is advisable to contact  the Environmental Protection Team for advice. In some circumstances, specialist contractors may be required to carry out the work safely.

Smaller asbestos items like oven gloves, fire blankets, simmering mats etc. may be disposed of by placing it into a sealed bag and again delivering to a licensed Tip.

  • Asbestos will be found in most homes
  • If in good condition such asbestos can remain with safety
  • If damaged, asbestos fibres can be released
  • Breathing asbestos dust can be harmful

If you are unsure or require more information please contact the Environmental Protection Team by the contact details on this page.