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Types of Asbestos

Asbestos is a natural mineral which is mined from rock found in many countries.

Asbestos has long been known for its fire and friction resistant qualities. It is made of tiny fibres that are as strong as steel; however, asbestos can be woven like cotton, making it an extremely versatile and durable material. Asbestos quickly became the material of choice in many industries.

There are three types of asbestos:

  • Crocidolite (Blue) Asbestos
  • Amosite (Brown) Asbestos
  • Chrysotile (White) Asbestos

By the mid 20th century asbestos was being used throughout the world in products such as bricks, pipes, flooring and insulation. During World War II thousands of tons of asbestos were used in war ships as insulation for pipes, turbines, engines and boilers.

It was not until the 20th Century that the debilitating effects of asbestos on the human body were appreciated and regulations were introduced. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the mesothelioma epidemic became apparent in the South African asbestos mines. Imports of blue asbestos and brown asbestos into the UK were stopped in the 1980s. There was still a common misconception that white asbestos was ‘safe‘. However, studies indicated that this was not the case, and highlighted that all types of asbestos were harmful. Importation and use of all asbestos was banned in 1999.

Asbestos at home

It is difficult to identify asbestos but if you believe you have asbestos in your home don‘t panic. Leave it alone, asbestos is only dangerous when it is damaged or disturbed and fibres can be released. Do not attempt to remove the asbestos yourself, seek professional advice beforehand. Asbestos lagging, insulation board and spray coatings can only be removed by a licensed contractor. It may be that a sample of the asbestos needs to be taken, if so, this can only be done by a trained professional.

Asbestos at work

If you suspect asbestos materials are present in your workplace do not panic. Inform a safety representative who should investigate your concern. If the asbestos material is damaged and you feel it poses a risk of exposure to those working there you should evacuate the area but remember not to cause undue panic or chaos. Work should not continue until the area has been made safe, by having the asbestos removed, repaired or cleaned by suitably trained professionals.

As with asbestos in the home, asbestos removal work must be done by licensed contractors, you should seek professional advice in this regard.

There are strict regulations for the disposal of asbestos from the workplace:

  • Asbestos waste must be packed in UN-approved packaging with a CDG hazard sign and asbestos code information visible
  • Asbestos waste must be double wrapped and labelled. The standard practice is to use a red inner bag and asbestos warnings and a clear outer bag with the CDG hazard sign
  • Be careful with sharp objects which could puncture the bags
  • Do not overfill the bags as this could cause them to split
  • If you need to move the asbestos waste, use a sealed skip or a vehicle which is east to clean and has a separate compartment for the asbestos waste
  • If you are unable to move the asbestos as stated above, you should arrange for a registered waste carrier to collect it
  • A Waste Consignment Note must be completed and copies of this should be kept for 3 years
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