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Dealing with asbestos in the home

Asbestos can be dangerous to human health if it has been disturbed or damaged and must be disposed of safely. The following information can help you understand what to do if you suspect your property is affected by asbestos.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral which was commonly used in buildings and as fire proofing from the 1950s to the mid-1980s. There are three types; white, blue and brown. However, it cannot be identified by its colour as it is often incorporated with other materials.

Health risks

When fibres from damaged or disturbed asbestos are inhaled into the lungs, there is a risk of developing serious or even fatal diseases.

Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos can be found in any home built before the year 2000, in wall panels, drain pipes, tiles, gutters and heating systems.  Asbestos cement is also commonly found in gardens, sometimes as corrugated roof cement panels or sheeting on sheds and garages, but more usually fragments buried in the soil.

What should you do if you find or suspect asbestos at your property?

If you suspect asbestos in your home and garden, it is perfectly safe to leave it unless it is damaged. If you do discover fibres or fragments of asbestos, removal will be required.

How do you get asbestos removed?

Rented properties

If you live in a council house you should contact the housing association which manages your property, or if you are a tenant in privately-rented accommodation, you should report this to your landlord.                                                                   

Hire a contractor

The Asbestos Removal Contractors Association lists over 300 accredited members, including services available locally. Some asbestos removal, which is particularly risky, requires that the contractor is licensed by the HSE.  Find a Health and Safety Executive (HSE): when do you need a licensed contractor for asbestos removal? on the HSE website.

Remove cement-bonded asbestos yourself

You can remove cement-bonded asbestos yourself  but you must take the following precautions given the health risks.

  • Wet the material before handling with disposable gloves.
  • Do not break, grind or saw the material, try to keep it intact.
  • Take the material apart in complete sections where possible.
  • Put gloss paint on broken edges, or soak them thoroughly before you start work if the material is damaged.
  • Use an appropriate dust mask and disposable overalls and dispose of these as waste once finished.
  • Double-bag the material in two strong plastic bags, seal with duct tape and label the outer bag.

Disposing of asbestos

Asbestos must be disposed of safely at one of four household waste recycling centres (tips) which accept cement-bonded asbestos - Annfield Plain, Horden, Romanway at Bishop Auckland and Tudhoe. You'll need a household hazardous waste permit to do this. Anyone caught flytipping will be prosecuted.

More information about asbestos disposal

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE): asbestos web page  provides further advice and information as to how to manage and dispose of asbestos safely.

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