DIY Asbestos Removal UK – Understanding the Risks
Updated: Dec 20, 2019
Asbestos was once widely used in a range of building materials, consumer goods and commercial products due to its durability, fire resistance and low price. Prior to 1999, asbestos was a common material for insulation all over the UK.
The United Kingdom has some of the highest rates of asbestos related disease, largely due to the UK government permitting the use of asbestos long after many other countries integrated strict regulations.
As a general rule of thumb, if your house was built before the ban, it’s likely to contain some asbestos products or materials. It was used in ceilings, wall plasters, tiling, floor mastics, piping, vinyl floor backings and many other places. In most cases, if the materials have not been disturbed or weathered, the asbestos materials do not pose a threat. However, if asbestos materials become damaged or disturbed, the fibres become airborne and are incredibly high-risk for those exposed to it.
Asbestos abatement or removal can be extremely hazardous, especially if the materials containing asbestos have been disturbed, damaged or weathered. Although it’s not illegal for a homeowner to removal small amounts (10 square meters) of non-friable asbestos themselves, the HSE strongly advise those with suspected asbestos materials to find accredited surveyors and removalists to take care of the job.
With the growth of DIY (Do It Yourself) trends in home repairs and renovations, it can be hard to know where to draw the line between saving some time and money and putting yourself and family’s safety at risk. Regardless of the volume or size of asbestos products, exposure to the toxic fibre is directly linked to terrible disease such as asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and pleural plaque. If you’re thinking about removing asbestos yourself, you should at least consider the risks of DIY asbestos removal.
Asbestos doesn’t pose a health risk if left undisturbed. However, if a material containing asbestos is damaged, exposed, disturbed or weathered, the tiny fibres from asbestos are released into the air. Once these fibres are released, they are at risk of being inhaled. When these fibres are inhaled, they become trapped in the lungs and cause many health problems.
There are four main diseases associated with asbestos exposure. These include:
· Pleural disease - pleural thickening and pleural plaques
· Asbestosis – scarring of the lung tissue
· Asbestos related lung cancer
Identifying Asbestos Materials
To properly inspect, survey and sample potential asbestos materials, an accredited building inspector needs to perform a site survey. Without the appropriate training, knowledge and equipment for this survey, it can be hard to know what to even look for. Unless the materials containing asbestos are clearly labelled, it’s very difficult to identify them.
Testing for asbestos yourself is not recommended, as you can easily release asbestos fibres into the air while obtaining the samples, without realising. The accuracy of an at home asbestos test is likely to be compromised with lack of training and experience. You can conduct plenty of online research into asbestos, however, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for certified experience and knowledge.
Power tools, cutting or sanding discs, high pressure hoses and compressed air hoses cannot be used for the removal of asbestos. The use of these tools will disturb the binding of the material and allow the release of asbestos fibres into the air. Asbestos materials are also supposed to be kept thorough wet, with a well-ventilated area. However, the area must be completely sealed off from other parts of those to ensure any dust particles don’t contaminate other rooms.
When it comes to the actual removal of the asbestos products, the risks far outweigh the benefits of not having to pay for a professional. Sydney Asbestos removal company GBAR Group note that although homeowners are legally allowed to remove limited amounts of asbestos from their home, for the most part, their clients are primarily those who have attempted to remove the asbestos products themselves and have completely underestimated the abatement process.
The last part of the asbestos removal process is the safe disposal of the contaminated products. You cannot dump or leave asbestos from your residential site for your regular garbage pick-up. Asbestos materials need to be properly transported to an approved hazardous waste facility.
If you do wish to go forth with the asbestos removal yourself, you should seek advice and information from your local council. There are a number of measures you will need to take to remove the materials safely, depending on your local area and governance.
Apart from the dangers of DIY asbestos removal, the actual process can be downright inconvenient due to the sheer number of necessary precautions you need to take to decrease the risks involved. While professional services don’t always squeeze into a budget, they are also highly regulated and it’s very unlikely a DIYer will be able to effectively eliminate asbestos risks up to the same standards.