I've started knocking out the hearth of a fireplace in my 1930s bungalow and whereas I was expecting it to be made up of brickwork, once I chipped off the tiling, I found that it was comprised of some kind of white-ish cement/plaster with iron/steel reinforcement.
My questions are...
1) has anyone heard of asbestos being used in such an application,
2) how would I get it tested, and
3) how long does it take, since I'm currently living in the building and am now concerned?
Abestos was used a lot in the construction industry in the 1930 in many different forms. So there is a chance the cement could contain asbestos.
The best thing to do is not to disturb it as asbestos fibres are only dangerous when airbourne and inhaled. If you have already disturbed it i would suggest damping the hearth down with water from an atomiser. There are many companies that specialise in asbestos surveying and removal. I have had many type 3 asbestos surveys done on properties i have had demolished and was only charges £10:00 for tests on samples taken over and above that agreed for the survey,this i was told was the price the lab charged per sample. However the full type 3 (fully intrusive survey) cost us £130:00 for a 3 bedroom terrace. I would suggest looking in your local yellow pages and phoning around to get the cheapest quote for the hearth to be tested.
There is a lot of misconception regarding asbestos.
White asbestos as used in many domestic garages, is harmless.
Blue asbestos as used in the insulation of hot pipes is dangerous.
It is unlikely that you are looking at blue asbestos.
Suggesting white asbestos (chrysotile) is harmless is foolish once airbourne the fibres will enter your lung as easy as brown or blue asbestos. That is why we have banned the use of white asbestos in this country since the early 80s. Asbestos insulation boards found in many properties and asbestos cement sheets can also contain brown asbestos (amosite ). The removal of brown asbestos is notifible to the HSE because it is a carcinogenic when inhaled. I would suggest you go on an asbestos awareness course. You will then probably have more respect for a material that will be responsible for thousands of deaths from lung cancer in future. If in doubt get it checked out.
The Regulations prohibit the importation, supply and use of all forms of asbestos.
They continue the ban introduced for blue and brown asbestos in 1985 and for white asbestos in 1999.
They also continue to ban the second-hand use of asbestos products such as asbestos cement sheets and asbestos boards and tiles; including panels which have been covered with paint or textured plaster containing asbestos.
REMEMBER: The ban applies to new use of asbestos. If existing asbestos containing materials are in good condition, they may be left in place, their condition monitored and managed to ensure they are not disturbed.
Duty to manage asbestos
The Asbestos Regulations also include the 'duty to manage asbestos’ in non-domestic premises. Guidance on the duty to manage asbestos can be found in the Approved Code of Practice The Management of Asbestos in Non-Domestic Premises, L127, ISBN 9780 7176 6209 8 and on the duty to manage area of this website. With acknowlegement to HSE
As this is an important issue, I would like to repeat a recent article published by the HSE
Asbestos: The Hidden Killer
Stephanie Power talks to Steve Coldrick
about HSE's Asbestos - the Hidden Killer campaign.
This campaign is targeted at principally people who work in the trades associated with buildings, building refurbishment. That's what it's about and the whole purpose of it is to help address a problem we discovered that when we were speaking to them about their knowledge about asbestos we were very shocked by what they told us because in essence they were saying it's all gone therefore it's safe. Actually they were much more concerned about medium density fibreboard MDF. Asbestos was not a problem to them and yet even though we've got 4000 plus deaths a year from asbestos and that number's going up as a result of exposures some decades ago the fact that in about half a million non domestic that is public, commercial, industrial and retail premises contain asbestos materials in them and these are the people who are doing work then they remain at risk unknowingly and therefore aren't going to take the precautions so it's their health that is at risk today.
So asbestos hasn't been used as a building material since 2000 and what you're saying is that there's perhaps a notion that because it was banned in 2000 it now doesn't exist.
Well that's the impression that we're getting. The trades people think it's granddad's disease, it's not relevant to them. What they fail to appreciate is that because it's a legacy material and it's in many, many buildings apart from those built or refurbished after the year 2000 when they're drilling into walls for example they may be drilling in to asbestos containing materials which are high in asbestos and then doing that work means they inhale that and of course if they're doing it on an almost daily basis they're going to inhale a significant amount and it's those people who are at risk.
But then people panic when they hear that it hasn't gone away because people think any contact with asbestos and that's it.
One can understand the concern and I think that the key point is that the notion that if somebody inhales one fibre of asbestos then they are doomed is not credible. What the doctors tell us is that those who suffer the dreadful cancers from asbestos are people who've inhaled substantial amounts and that's either because over a prolonged period or over a reduced period but at very high concentrations. But they also think that any material containing any amount of asbestos is dangerous and again that's not necessarily true. We have material which most people are familiar with if they look at various roofs or of their garages at home or, or other buildings of asbestos cement. That contains very low concentrations of white asbestos and providing people don't do silly things in terms of drilling, sawing and therefore don't release it the risk is not very high at all. At the other end you've got material which is called asbestos insulation board which contains very high levels of brown asbestos which is very dangerous and in fact only people who are licensed by HSE are allowed to work on that material because it requires very special precautions indeed.
But also you were saying right at the beginning of this conversation that around 4000 people die every year because of asbestos and that's more than the number of people who are killed on the roads so you're concerned that people aren't taken it seriously enough
The best thing to do is not to disturb it as asbestos fibres are only dangerous when airbourne and inhaled. If you have already disturbed it i would suggest damping the hearth down with water from an atomiser. There are many companies that specialise in asbestos surveying and removal.
in summary, it's best to err on the side of caution and get in an expert. it's quite possible that a property of that age contains asbestos in the cement mortar of a fireplace and in particular the render.
asbestos was considered a wonder-product in those days, in fact up until quite recently it was put in many building products.