The Dangers of Asbestos: How to identify asbestos, health risks of asbestos etc

The Dangers of Asbestos:

Through our work here at Recyclosaurus we are becoming increasingly aware of just how prevalent asbestos is – in homes, offices, factories, outhouses, and piles of rubbish. Of major concern to us is the lack of awareness that still pervades through much of the industry and indeed the general population. Its important to us that our customers that might not know how common it is, are made aware, so that when they come to renovate or clear out a property, they do not unwittingly expose themselves or anyone else to this deadly substance.

Surprisingly, asbestos is natural – it is the name given to any of several mineral fibres. You can actually see some of it in its natural form at the Natural History Museum in London; it just looks like a rock with fibres in it. Unfortunately as is now widely-known, it is deadly if the fibres are released and breathed in, causing diseases such as asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) and mesothelioma, an incurable lung cancer. Similarly unfortunate is the fact that asbestos-containing products are quite common – prior to the ban, it was used in a lot of things, from car brakes to fireproof blankets to building materials.

How to Identify Asbestos:

Can it be identified with the naked eye? In most cases, no. The only way to tell for certain if something is asbestos is to collect a sample and send it to a laboratory.However, it is possible to educate yourself about where it might be found, in order to avoid accidentally exposing yourself or your family. As a source for information, support and counselling for conditions caused by asbestos exposure, check out mesothelioma.net.

Here are some surprise places that asbestos may be lurking:

a) Insulating board behind your electric meter.
b) Cement used in construction, very often in cladding on outer walls.
c) Corrugated rooves – you might think they’re metal but look again – is it crumbling? This is a cement/asbestos mixture.
d) Lagging – old pipe and boiler insulation, even where it appears to be a sort of twisted rope/rag wrapped around the pipes.
e) Hessian sacks – hessian in itself is harmless but has been widely recycled. Asbestos used to be carried in hessian sacks and so contamination is possible.
f) Ceiling tiles – a lot of the square, white ceiling tiles found in schools, offices etc contain asbestos.
g) Vinyl floor tiles – one of the last places you’d think you’d find it – common in schools and homes.

These links are exceptionally helpful in identifying potential sources of asbestos exposure – they include comprehensive detail, pictures and diagrams:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/gallery.htm
http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/hiddenkiller/where-is-it-found.htm – use ‘Asbestovision’ to easily see where it might be found.
http://www.ehs.okstate.edu/kopykit/asbestos1.htm
http://www.yourasbestos.com.au/
http://www.elslaw.com/asbestos-mesothelioma/products.htm

An important thing to remember when carrying out a renovation or managing a building, is that the onus is on you to manage asbestos risk. This not only protects you and those you are responsible for, but also anybody else who may potentially become exposed. One such group of people would be our teams that come to clear your waste – we are not qualified, equipped or insured to handle asbestos and cannot carry out any job where we suspect asbestos has contaminated the waste to be removed. Believe it or not, we have arrived at jobs where people have tried to pressurise us into removing asbestos by claiming ‘Oh its not the dangerous kind’ or ‘No, thats not asbestos mate, I’m sure of it’. It’s these kind of attitudes that cause deaths – the reality is that people die from being exposed to asbestos. Its time for people to understand that a little bit of exposure is NOT ok, just the same as hoping or pretending it isn’t asbestos and passing it on to someone else and therefore negligently exposing them is unlawful, unfair and completely wrong.

How to Remove Asbestos Safely:

Undisturbed, intact asbestos is harmless. However, if you do need it removed it needs to be done properly. Whoever removes it needs to be dressed in a protective suit with the correct face mask. Please note, a dust mask is NOT adequate protection, the minimum requirement is a mask with the code ‘FFP3′ on the packaging, which means it is certified to the UK standard CE EN149:2001 and will protect you from breathing in mineral fibres. Its also important to dispose of your gloves, mask and protective suit once you are finished. You should also not wear shoes or boots with laces as the fibres attach to these, exposing you later. Most councils will collect asbestos for free provided it is double-bagged – but they won’t collect it loose or remove it from a fitted state. You should use a company specialising in asbestos removal but here is a link to buy protective gear:

http://www.protectivemasksdirect.co.uk/mask-pro3-pack10—-ffp3-ce-certified-face-masks–valved-highest-gradedffp3-respirator-4-p.asp

Finally, remember that people die from asbestos exposure and that the effort required to protect yourself is a small price to pay for your life. It may interest you to know that Steve Mcqueen actually died from Mesothelioma, many years after his exposure to asbestos as a marine, which occurred whilst removing lagging from ships. Relatives of men who have unwittingly brought asbestos fibres home on their clothes have died from the same disease, simply from the low-level exposure they received from handling the clothes when washing them.

Its not something to toy with or push out of your mind – address the problem in a safe, considered way and there’s no reason for anyone’s health to be put at risk.

 

 

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