Toxic Waste

Asbestos Disposal: What you need to know

Asbestos is a silent killer – its tiny fibres can get into the lungs and cause damage that only becomes fully apparent many years later, leading to breathing difficulties that can severely hamper your quality of life, and ultimately lead to an early death.

It has been one of the HSE’s primary topic areas for many years already, along with other major killers like falls from height, and it should not be trifled with, nor underestimated in terms of its potential impact.

Asbestos is deadly. It’s as simple as that, and when it comes to removing asbestos from a building or any other premises or structure, it’s essential that you know how to proceed.

What to do if you find asbestos

First of all, you need to know if you have asbestos on your premises, and that means checking for high-risk materials like lagging and insulation, AIB (asbestos insulating board) and sprayed asbestos coatings – obviously newer buildings are less likely to have any of these materials, but in older structures there’s a good chance of finding at least some asbestos, especially in insulating materials.

There may also be substances like asbestos cement, and this should be handled carefully too, but it is the high-risk materials, which contain a larger amount of loose fibres that may be inhaled, which should only be disposed of by a licensed contractor.

Licensed removal specialists undergo training especially dedicated to high-risk asbestos materials, using methods that are also designed specifically to protect against the unique risks of asbestos fibres, from containing the released fibres and cleaning up afterwards, to protecting the lungs of the workers carrying out the job itself.

Respiratory equipment is used to prevent any loose fibres from being inhaled; it should be worn by all workers present on the job site, and any employees without protection, or members of the public, should not be allowed into the affected area until it has been properly cleaned up.

Even among low-risk asbestos removal, there is a category of ‘notifiable non-licensed work’ which calls for employers to carry out regular medical checks on their staff, and designate the areas where asbestos is being removed from.

If you are worried that you have been exposed to asbestos in a residence, commercial building or industrial setting, the duration of exposure is important – most short-term or one-off exposures should have few, if any, long-term health implications.

The risks escalate the longer you are exposed, and the higher the quantity of asbestos fibres in the atmosphere, which is why the health consequences are typically more severe for people who have worked around asbestos without protection for much of their career.

Removing asbestos

Once asbestos-containing materials have been removed, they must be disposed of very carefully, as they may still release fibres into the air during subsequent storage and transport.

The rags and other materials used to clean the area should usually be disposed of too, and even the tools used may need to be destroyed if they cannot be adequately cleaned.

Everything should be double wrapped and clearly labelled as hazardous, and larger sections of cement board, for instance, should be wrapped intact rather than being unnecessarily broken down.

As mentioned above, it is essential to keep everything completely wrapped and sealed during transportation to a suitable disposal site – the local council can advise on where to take these materials so that they can finally be disposed of once and for all.

If you need help with asbestos removal, contact us today to see if we can help.

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

7 thoughts on “Asbestos Disposal: What you need to know

  1. It’s handy to know that in older buildings it’s highly likely that there is at least a little asbestos in the insulation. We moved into an older home and that thought has been on the back of the mind since we’ve moved in. There is an attic space were we keep some storage boxes. If we don’t go up there very often, would you still suggest we get the insulation removed? Thanks for your help.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this information about asbestos removal. I had no idea that you would need to take so many precautions when it comes to removing and disposing of this stuff. Just the fact that you need respiratory equipment shows that it is really important to leave everything to a professional. After all, I don’t want to get myself sick just because I wanted to do the removal on my own!

    1. I had no idea it was such a concern either. I can just picture people in hazmat suits walking around my house and that is frightening, especially with kids in the house. I think it would be wise to have your home inspected every now and then.

  3. Asbestos sounds very harmful to your health. Taking proper precautions when you find asbestos I would agree can really be beneficial. I had no idea that if you are exposed to asbestos you need to act fast and get treatment.

  4. My husband and I are looking at buying a new home. We have looked at some older houses, and I am a little worried that some of them have the potential to be carrying asbestos. If we get serious about buying one of those, we’ll be sure to have it checked by a professional.

  5. Thanks for pointing out that any risks associated with asbestos exposure escalate the longer your exposure lasts for. I would imagine that this would make an inspection a high priority if you even think you may be living or working somewhere where this substance is present. I imagine it would also be really important to only allow a professional service to remove the asbestos, so you can make sure that it isn’t spreading the contaminants.

  6. A nice run down of how to proceed sensibly with removing hazardous materials. It never ceases to amaze me how often people seem to try to deal with these things themselves, or worse still seeing suspect materials dumped in skips in the road, or fly tipped in the countryside!

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