Despite its reputation for be dangerous to human health, asbestos can be found in homes and places of work across the UK. Even though it is very common, many people don’t understand asbestos especially well, so here are answers to five of the most frequently asked questions on the subject.

I think I have asbestos at home. What do I do?

Firstly, it should be noted that asbestos can be present in any property built before 2000, when the use of asbestos was entirely banned in the UK, so it may be possible that asbestos is in your home. If you believe that certain materials in your house contain asbestos then the most important thing to do is to leave them alone. As long as the asbestos is in good condition it will not pose a threat your health. However, if you attempt to disturb or move it, that can release fibres into the atmosphere where they can be breathed in to the lungs and cause damage.

You should not attempt to repair, remove or check asbestos unless you have had the necessary training to do so. If you’re concerned that the asbestos in your home is damaged or deteriorating you should get in contact with an asbestos surveyor who can also deal with removals and disposal. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

How do you identify asbestos?

Correctly identifying asbestos can be very difficult. Many materials look very much like asbestos and can be easily confused with it even if they are harmless. Equally, seemingly innocuous building materials such as cement or even Artex surface coating may contain asbestos. So unless you have had very specific training it’s almost always the right idea to get expert analysis.

What is an asbestos survey and should I have one?

An asbestos survey is an inspection and report carried out by a surveyor to establish whether asbestos is present in a property and what condition the asbestos is in. For businesses, this can be the basis of an action plan to minimise asbestos-related risk in the workplace. It is good practice to have an asbestos survey carried out so that you are aware of any asbestos on site.

Can I sell my house/flat if it contains asbestos?

Yes you can. Having asbestos within a property doesn’t change its status and there is no obligation to have asbestos removed before the sale. However, it should be noted that you must disclose the presence of asbestos.

I work in a building that contains asbestos – should I be worried?

As noted above, many buildings built before 2000 contain asbestos, but this is not necessarily a reason to be worried on its own. Asbestos is only dangerous when fibres are released into the air. If you are still concerned about its presence you can talk to your employee or health and safety manager.