What is it?
Asbestos is a general term for a number of silicates of iron, magnesium, calcium, sodium and aluminium, which appear naturally in fibrous form. Of six basic forms, Chrysotile (White), Amosite (Brown), Crocidolite (Blue), are the most common, with fibrous anthophyllite, actinolite and tremolite not extensively encountered in the UK. Any mixture containing any of these minerals, may also be encountered and are subject to similar control. Colour should not be relied upon for identification purposes.
Where is it likely to be found?
During the twentieth century, particularly in the seventies to mid eighties, Asbestos was extensively used in a number of applications due to it's ability to resist fire, acid and heat. It is also extremely hard wearing. It is typically found in use as fire or heat resistant panels, exhausts, gaskets and pipe lagging, sound insulation, arc arrestors or flash guards in fuse and switch-gear, brake shoes or pads, ducts & joint boxes, ceiling and floor tiles, decorative treatments to walls and ceiling including "Artex" type finishes.
How do I know if it's Asbestos?
The only way you can tell for sure is by analysis under a microscope. If in doubt, ask for the dust or fibres to be analysed.
What are the risks to health?
Should the condition of any Asbestos deteriorate through wear & tear, fibres can become airborne and could be inhaled. A single fibre if logged in the lungs has been known to lead to diseases such as Asbestosis, pleural plaques or thickening, lung cancer and Mesothelioma, both of which are terminal.
What are the time-scales?
Asbestos related diseases usually develop sometime between 10 and 50 years following exposure.
What can be done about it?
Ideally the only safe form of Asbestos is no Asbestos. Although this would mean that all existing Asbestos is removed by Licensed operators to registered land-fill sites. However, in addition to the costs involved, the risks during removal & transportation, the vast areas which will be required for the landfills, do not make this realistic in the short term.
Where can I find out more?
Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations have been revised several times since their introduction and are due for further review this year. Companies have their own guidance for instance BT's ISIS documents SFY/LAP/B055-B060 & SFY/CSP/B071 and Post Office also refer.
Asbestos: the hidden
killer - presentation and handout
This comprehensive Mesothelioma research guide offers topics ranging from Mesothelioma symptoms and treatments, in depth cancer research reports, diagnosing & imaging techniques, asbestos jobsites, US cancer centers and a cancer forum.
Occupational & Environmental Diseases Association
The British Asbestos Newsletter TUC calls for tougher EU laws on asbestos exposures: www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s/tuc-4233-f0.cfm#euasbestos37
The European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee today voted to cut in half the maximum exposure for asbestos proposed by the European Commission in its new Asbestos Directive: www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s/tuc-4599-f0.cfm
The TUC welcomes MEPs' 'toughest approach yet' to asbestos. Responding to the European Parliament vote on asbestos (11 April 2002), TUC General Secretary John Monks said: "The European Parliament has taken a major step forward in proposing the toughest controls yet on asbestos. A public register of asbestos in public buildings has been a trade union demand for many years, and it is the best way to protect repair, removal and renovation workers from the fatal fibre." See www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s/tuc-4731-f0.cfm
Center for Asbestos Safety in the Workplace
The epidemic of chronic diseases caused by asbestos has been called "the worst workplace tragedy in American history." This site is a resource for anybody who has worked with or near asbestos in the past or who works near asbestos today. Retired workers need to know about who might have been exposed, the health effects of asbestos, and what they can do if they become ill. Today's workers need to know how to protect themselves, their families, and their co-workers from the effects of asbestos.
To contact the department: email@example.com