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What is it?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous silicate mineral. The three types of asbestos which have been used in the UK are:
- crocidolite (blue asbestos)
- amosite (brown asbestos)
- chrysotile (white asbestos)
You cannot identify asbestos by the colour as it is often incorporated with other materials. It would need to be analysed by a specialist laboratory to be certain that a material contains asbestos.
Asbestos was used in a wide range of building materials and household products, such as pipe lagging, airing cupboard linings, roofing, textured paints, ironing boards and window boxes. The marketing, supply and new use of blue and brown asbestos was prohibited in 1985 and of white asbestos in 1999.
When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or deteriorate with age they can release fibres into the air. The shape and size of asbestos fibres means that they can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing health problems. The three main conditions associated with exposure to asbestos are asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
A greater risk to health arises when asbestos is damaged or if the material is drilled, sawn, scrubbed or sanded. DIY work can therefore result in brief but high levels of exposure. If you suspect that the material contains asbestos you should not work on it and should seek expert advice.
Plumbers and electricians are at risk from asbestos exposure because they might unwittingly drill into asbestos-containing materials in the course of their work.
If you would like to find out more about asbestos and how to deal with it, please contact Environmental Health Services on 01277 312500.
There is also more information available on the following websites:
- Essex County Council A-Z Guide on Waste
- www.hse.gov.uk (for information on working with asbestos safely)
- www.gov.uk (for advice to householders)
Details of local companies that specialise in the removal of asbestos are available from Environmental Health Services, or you can contact the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association on 01283 531126 or see their website: www.arca.org.uk
As part of Essex County Council's Household Hazardous Waste scheme, small amounts of asbestos can be collected and disposed of free of charge. Call the Waste and Recycling Helpline on 0345 603 7625 for advice.