Asbestos was a popular building material prior to the 1970s, until it was discovered to be a carcinogen. It’s typically found in duct and pipe insulation, loft insulation, floor tiles and cement asbestos siding. But exposure to asbestos has life-threatening risks connected to it so, if it’s detected in your property, the issue needs to be handled with care. If you don’t take proper precautions when handling asbestos, it can be incredibly harmful to your health.

If you’re considering asbestos removal from your home or business, you’ll understandably be worried about the health risks of doing so. Asbestos has been linked with life-threatening illnesses and when it’s not handled safely, you could wind up breathing in these fibres which can cause anything from pleural thickening to cancer. You may not notice any side effects immediately, but they can develop over time. In fact, it can take anywhere from 15 to 60 years for symptoms to develop after you’ve been exposed. The effect of asbestos is cumulative, so you need to protect yourself as soon as possible.

What happens when you disturb asbestos fibres?

Asbestos fibres are microscopic and, when they’re disturbed, they can become airborne which means you run the risk of breathing them in. The fibres can then become trapped in the mucus membranes of the nose and throat, and into the lungs or digestive tract if they’re ingested. When asbestos fibres become trapped in the body, they can lead to a range of health problems.

The risk with asbestos comes when it’s friable, which means that it can be easily broken up by hand to release the fibres into the air. Damage and deterioration increase the risk of asbestos’ friability, such as from water damage, ageing, and the physical impact from drilling or cutting. This breaks down the material and fibres, which means they release more easily, making them more of a threat to your health.

While asbestos floor tiles are not friable, sprayed asbestos insulation is incredibly friable, so it depends on the type you have in your home as to how much of a risk it poses to your health. Provided the asbestos is somewhere that it can’t be disturbed, or that it stays undamaged, it should be left where it is until it can be removed properly, to avoid the fibres entering the air.

Is removal always necessary?

Asbestos removal can be very dangerous if it’s not dealt with professionally – inhaling these fibres can lead to serious medical conditions, including asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. There are strict protocols you need to follow when removing asbestos to minimise the risk of breathing in these toxic fibres.

Whether you need to remove asbestos in your property depends on the type of asbestos you have. If the material isn’t disturbed or damaged, it doesn’t pose as much of a threat and can be left in place without needing to be removed.

But if you’re unsure, it can be beneficial to have an asbestos survey carried out to determine whether your health is at risk from the asbestos in the property, because higher-risk asbestos-containing materials are more likely to release fibres when they’re removed.

Since asbestos removal can be such a hazardous undertaking, it’s important that it’s carried out by a licensed professional so that they can remove it safely and dispose of it properly. While there are no laws about removing asbestos yourself, you shouldn’t attempt to remove or handle it on your own, as you run the risk of inhaling the fibres if it’s a friable form of asbestos.

Final thoughts

Thousands of older buildings contain asbestos-containing products, and these can pose a risk of the health of people living or working in these properties. In order to keep the dangers of asbestos at bay, it’s vital that it’s removed safely by a professional who understands the risks and how to dispose of this material properly. To book an asbestos survey or for advice about potential asbestos in your property, contact the team at Crucial Environmental today.