Introduction to Asbestos in Insulation
For a long time Asbestos had been the go to material for a wide variety of insulation options. From insulation in the loft to pipe insulation, Asbestos had been continually used as a building material in the UK until being banned in 1999.
There was logic to this (before the health complications of being around asbestos had been known). Asbestos worked as a fantastic insulator, was fire-resistant, cheap, durable and readily available. Hence why it became one of the more popular building materials through the 60s and 70s.
Due to its popularity it therefore is important to know if your insulation does in fact contain asbestos. Below is a guide for all you need to know about asbestos insulation in your home or business property.
What Does It Look Like?
To know whether this affects your property, it would make sense that you need to know what to look for. This is not easy to spot for the untrained eye, but in each of the 6 types of asbestos there is a unique differentiation that can be spotted.
Often this will need to be done under a microscope. Asbestos fibres are often mixed with other materials, that make it hard to spot with the naked eye.
The following are the different types of asbestos and how they can be identified:
Chrysotile – Commonly referred to as white asbestos and is one of the three most popular types of asbestos. The fibres for these are both flexible and curved in make up.
Crocidolite – With both thin and brittle fibres, they look almost like small needles. They are often either grey or blue in colour. This is the second of the more common types of asbestos.
Amosite – Similar to crocidolite, they appear like mini needles are both brittle and thin. Unlike crocidolite however, these are brown in colour and is the final of the three most common asbestos types.
The final three types of asbestos can often be found as contaminants mixed with other types of asbestos or materials. They are as follows:
Themolite – often made up of light colours such as white or green
Actinolite – generally made up of darker coloured fibres. These fibres are rarely found in insulation material however
Anthophyllite – Usually composed of a dull green or grey fibre make up. Research has linked this form of asbestos heavily to the condition mesothelioma
Types Of Asbestos Insulation
There are four main types of insulation that may contain asbestos. They are as follows:
Block Insulation – This insulation will be cut to size to fit the area that needs insulating. It often involved gluing a slab to a wall to provide insulation for the room. Often found in walls, floors or ceilings, there is one major issue with these.
Containing a very high concentration of asbestos, if damaged they often create major exposure to asbestos airborne asbestos fibres in the insulated room.
Loose-Fill Insulation – This was one of the more common uses of asbestos in insulation. It worked great at keeping properties warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This can often be found within floors, walls or roofs of a building (often areas that are not easily accessible).
It is applied by either being poured or blown into a hollow area. This type of asbestos insulation is therefore incredibly fibrous and releases fibres into the air frequently. Along with it being one of the more common forms used, it is also one of the more dangerous!
Spray-On Insulation – Asbestos would be mixed with other chemicals and bonding agents, allowing it to be sprayed onto a surface. Often used to protect steel structures from fire.
This process was hazardous and led to many fibres being spread in the air. This type of insulation is very fragile and can be easily damaged if disturbed.
Preformed & Loose Applied Insulation – This type of insulation can degrade with time, meaning that it will release a large amount of asbestos fibres into the air. Often used with plumbing and heating pipes and ducts.
Dangers Of Asbestos In your Insulation
Asbestos becomes a health risk once the fibres break off and are released into the air. This leads to them being inhaled into the lungs and becoming trapped.
There are a variety of health conditions that can be caused by this, and increased exposure to possible asbestos fibres makes people at higher risk of developing Mesothelioma, Asbestosis or Lung cancer.
It must also be noted that certain occupations can be at higher risk of exposure to asbestos. These can include (but are not limited to) plumbers, electricians, boiler repairmen and more. See the mesothelioma website for a larger list of occupations that may lead to greater exposure to asbestos.
Complications from asbestos often take anywhere up to 35 years to show (sometimes longer). The illnesses that can be developed from exposure often may not be apparent until later on in life!
How Would Asbestos Insulation Be Removed?
Removal of asbestos should only be carried out by a trained and fully qualified professional. This ensures that it is removed safely and disposed of correctly.
If asbestos is disposed of improperly, it can lead to a high level of fibres becoming airborne, leaving the individuals carrying out the removal at a tremendously high risk of exposure.
In order to ensure this does not occur, professionals must be used. With their specialised equipment and decontamination facilities, professionals will ensure that the asbestos is removed and the property deemed safe for it to return to living standards or business operations.
When determining whether or not your property does have insulation containing asbestos, you should always consult a professional. It needs to be handled and disposed of by contractors who have the relevant licenses to do so.
As mad as it may sound today, asbestos was a very prevalent material that could be found in the insulation of properties. Knowing that it is in your property, and removing it is important to ensure that nobody working or living in that property develops any long-term health complications.
We at Smart Asbestos Solutions can survey your property for asbestos, before safely and correctly disposing of it. Give our experts a call today on 07708 761540, to schedule a time for our asbestos removal services!
Complying with all HSE regulations, we have years of experience removing asbestos from a variety of sources.