As one of the leading skip hire companies in Cornwall, DSW receive a lot of asbestos material from not only commercial demolition projects, but also many smaller domestic renovation projects. Most of the asbestos that we receive is pre-arranged and handled with professional care by professionals. However, a lot of asbestos containing material arrives by skip at our Waste Transfer Station in Cornwall that we were not initially aware of.
We recently received a skip load of asbestos material in an open skip. The building company assured us that there were no asbestos containing materials in the waste, so it arrived at our depot without warning. We immediately visually identified the material as asbestos and then had it confirmed as such by a local UKAS approved testing laboratory. Even after proving it to the builder, he was adamant that the material we tested was not from the skip that he had delivered to us. This was highly unprofessional on the part of the builder.
An open skip full of dry asbestos sitting on his customer’s driveway for a few weeks could have released a blizzard of asbestos fibres into the local area; with children playing nearby and next to a busy thoroughfare, you can only imagine the knock-on effects! As well as the public being in imminent danger, the builder’s customer’s property also has the potential to contain a lot of asbestos fibres after the removal process. Also, the builder was putting our lives at risk when it arrived at our depot unannounced. We are well trained to identify Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) so were able to act quickly and deal with it at our end.
Where can asbestos be found in the home?
Asbestos was commonly used in various building materials and products until its health hazards became widely recognised, and its use was restricted or banned in many countries. If your home was constructed before the 1999, there’s a possibility that ACMs may be present. Here are some common areas and materials in older homes where asbestos can be found:
- Loft Insulation: Vermiculite insulation.
- Pipe Insulation: Asbestos was often used to insulate pipes, boilers, and ducts.
- Vinyl Floor Tiles: Some vinyl floor tiles and their adhesive contain asbestos.
- Linoleum: Older linoleum sheet flooring may contain asbestos in the backing.
- Ceilings and Walls:
- Textured Ceilings: Artex or textured ceilings often contain asbestos. It was used for its fire-resistant properties.
- Plaster: Some older plaster walls and ceilings may contain asbestos.
- Roofing and Siding:
- Roofing Shingles: Certain types of roofing shingles and felts contain asbestos.
- Siding: Cementitious siding products may contain asbestos.
- Piping and Ducts:
- HVAC Duct Insulation: Insulation around heating and cooling ducts may contain asbestos.
- Cement Pipes: Some cement pipes used for water and sewage systems contain asbestos.
- Electrical Panels:
- Electrical Panel Partitions: Asbestos-containing materials were used to provide fire resistance in older electrical panels.
- Fireplaces and Woodstoves:
- Fireproofing Materials: Asbestos was used in some fireproofing materials around wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.
- Adhesives and Sealants:
- Mastic: Asbestos-containing mastic adhesive was used in various applications, including for flooring.
- Pipe Cement: Asbestos cement was used in joining pipes and fittings.
- Vermin Insulation: Asbestos was used in some vermin-resistant materials.
It’s important to note that not all homes built before the 1980s contain asbestos, and asbestos use varied by region and construction practices. If you suspect asbestos may be present in your home, it’s crucial not to disturb or attempt to remove it yourself, as this can release asbestos fibres into the air. Instead, consult an asbestos professional to assess the situation, conduct testing if necessary, and safely manage or remove any asbestos-containing materials in accordance with regulations. Properly trained and certified professionals can safely handle asbestos abatement to protect your health and safety.
The dangers of asbestos
Asbestos poses significant health risks during the demolition and removal process if not handled properly. Here are some of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure in this context:
- Respiratory Problems: Asbestos fibres are microscopic and can become airborne when disturbed. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to serious respiratory problems, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. These diseases often have a long latency period, meaning symptoms may not appear until years or decades after exposure.
- Worker Health: Demolition workers and those involved in asbestos removal are at high risk of asbestos exposure. Prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to chronic health issues, and even short-term exposure to high concentrations can be dangerous.
- Secondary Exposure: Workers may inadvertently carry asbestos fibres home on their clothing, skin, or hair, leading to secondary exposure to family members and others close to them.
- Environmental Contamination: Improper handling of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can lead to the release of asbestos fibres into the environment. These fibres can persist in the air, soil, or water, posing risks to the wider community.
- Regulatory Violations: Failure to comply with asbestos regulations and guidelines can result in legal consequences, including fines and penalties.
To minimise these dangers, it’s crucial that we follow strict asbestos safety procedures during the demolition and removal processes:
- Asbestos Survey: Conduct a thorough asbestos survey before starting any demolition work to identify the presence and location of asbestos-containing materials.
- Proper Training: Ensure that workers involved in asbestos removal and demolition receive proper training on asbestos safety protocols, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Containment: Isolate and seal off areas with asbestos-containing materials to prevent the release of fibers into the air.
- Wet Methods: Wet asbestos-containing materials to prevent dust and fiber release during removal.
- Proper PPE: Provide workers with appropriate PPE, including respirators, coveralls, and gloves, to minimise exposure.
- Safe Removal: Use approved methods for asbestos removal, such as encapsulation, enclosure, or abatement, depending on the circumstances.
- Disposal: Dispose of asbestos waste in approved skips and at designated Waste Transfer Stations that can handle hazardous waste.
- Air Monitoring: Conduct air monitoring throughout the process to ensure that asbestos fibres are not being released into the environment.
- Regulatory Compliance: Comply with all HSE and Environment Agency regulations related to asbestos removal and disposal.
- Documentation: Maintain accurate records of asbestos surveys, removal procedures, and waste disposal.
By following proper procedures and regulations, the dangers associated with asbestos exposure in the demolition and removal process can be significantly reduced, protecting the general public, construction and removal workers, as well as the environment.
Please, if you are employing a builder to work on your property, ask them about any potential asbestos and if they have undertaken any Asbestos Awareness Training.