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Asbestos: where is it hiding?

It is now against the law to use asbestos in building works, so new builds will be free from this dangerous substance. There are still many areas in older buildings constructed before 2000 where asbestos could be hiding, however, so let’s take a look at where these might be.

Ceiling and floor cavities

Loose fill asbestos was used to insulate industrial and residential buildings, and is widely regarded as the most dangerous type of asbestos. The colour of loose fill is blue-grey or off-white, it has the texture of candy floss, and releases dangerous fibres into the air when disturbed.

Hot water systems

Asbestos lagging can be found around boilers, and was used as lagging for pipes, which were often covered with a special coating or paint. It is similar to the asbestos found in ceiling and floor cavities in that it disintegrates when disturbed, and releases asbestos fibres into the air.

Ceiling and partition walls

Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) had many uses in both industrial and residential buildings. These included ceiling tiles, partition walls, soffits and under-window panels. In some cases it is difficult to differentiate between insulating boards that contain asbestos and those that don’t, which only adds to the danger of working in these areas.

Roofs and gutters

Sheets of corrugated asbestos cement were commonly used to make roofs, and clad the walls of garages and outbuildings. Asbestos cement was also used in the guttering systems of residential and commercial properties.

Sprayed coatings

Sprayed coatings containing asbestos were used as protection against fire. They may be found on the underside of roofs and floors, particularly in industrial buildings such as warehouses.

Asbestos was mixed into vinyl floor tiles for insulation purposes and to increase their strength. Care should also be taken when dealing with heat-resistant gloves and fire blankets, as older ones are likely to contain asbestos.