Asbestos can be found in buildings built before the year 2000 (houses, factories, offices, schools, hospitals etc.) and causes around 5,000 deaths every year.
Asbestos is a natural mineral made up of many small fibres that has been used in building materials to make them more rigid and fire resistant. There are three main types; blue, brown and white, all of which can be harmful.
Full health and safety advice about asbestos can be found on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.
Advice for householders
Asbestos can be found in wall and bath panels, insulation, drainpipes, floor tiles and heating systems. Asbestos is also commonly found in roof panels or cement sheeting on sheds and garages.
If asbestos materials are in good condition, and in a place where they're unlikely to be disturbed, they shouldn't cause any harm. It's only when the materials are damaged or disturbed, releasing fibres, that asbestos can become a danger.
Advice for businesses
The duty to manage asbestos falls to those responsible for protecting others who work in such premises, or use them in other ways, from the risks to ill health that exposure to asbestos causes.
Electricians, plumbers, building maintenance workers, and shop fitters are particularly at risk, and precautionary measures should be taken by both contractors and building owners to identify whether a material or structure contains asbestos before work commences. If asbestos is present or likely to be present, suitable precautionary measures must be in place, including the need for licensed asbestos contractors to safely remove asbestos before work commences.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 places an important legal duty on the owner / occupier of non-domestic premises to develop an asbestos management plan.
The only guaranteed method of identifying an asbestos-containing material is to have it tested by a UKAS approved laboratory.
Removal and disposal of asbestos
Asbestos materials must be removed and disposed of in the correct manner. You can dispose of small amounts of wrapped cement bonded asbestos at designated household waste recycling centres. View a list of sites and conditions for accepting asbestos here.
If you use a skip company, you should ensure the company is willing to take the asbestos waste, are a registered carrier of waste and that they provide you with a valid consignment note. Read more on the GOV.UK website.
A list of qualified asbestos removal contractors is available from the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association.