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Think about your DIY project: Is there an asbestos risk?

Last updated: 14 June 2023

Previously: 3 August 2022

With the weather being so lovely and the summer holidays fast approaching, some readers of this blog may be thinking about the next DIY project.

How many will consider the asbestos risk when decorating their homes? Even though the DIY work may only small, you could still be exposing yourself and others to asbestos fibres. As long as the asbestos is not disturbed or damaged, asbestos is safe but we always advise people to talk to us for a steer.

Our MD, Debbie Hales contemplates the scenarios and why asbestos awareness really does need to improve.

Could my home contain asbestos?

During lockdown DIY projects increased phenomenally (refer to this 2020 news article on the BBC website, 'Covid-19: New lockdown brings new DIY projects'.

A Property Reporter article published at the end of 2021 detailed research by GoCompare Home Insurance. It discovered that 61% of UK homeowners decided to turn their hand to DIY during the lockdown and spent a whopping £11.2bn. (You may be interested to learn that £21.3bn was added to the value of UK homes.)  

Post lockdown and demand for home improvement has not diminished. The cost of living crisis has meant that many of us are opting to take on the work of tradespeople who are simply either too expensive or unavailable.

Whilst a refurbishment can be a very exciting distraction, how many people stopped and thought about the potential asbestos risk?

Prior to knocking down walls and ripping up floorboards, it’s important to consider the age of your home. All buildings built before 2000 have the potential to have Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) present.  

Asbestos awareness needs to get better

Now, in spite of various friends knowing me and what I do for a living (a subject I am very passionate about and bore them silly with), the possibility of asbestos presence is still not at the forefront of their minds when planning DIY or having contractors carry out work. Even my daughter didn’t think to check the artex in her home before having it plastered over, but fortunately our plasterer did.

One of my friends removed their kitchen floor tiles, another knocked a wall out and neither of them had an asbestos test or survey carried out before starting work. One did call me when it was too late and they had already started whilst the other posted her hubby carrying out the work on Facebook, both of which made for a tough conversation from my side.

My question to you all is: if I can’t raise awareness in my friends sufficiently that they stop and think, how do we raise awareness at all?

This is a genuine question. Any help you can give to raise awareness or suggestions to help me raise awareness would be greatly appreciated (please feel free to contact me via the website).

According to UKATA (UK Asbestos Training Association) there were 2,544 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2020, a rise of 6% compared with 2019, but similar to the average of 2523 deaths per year over the previous 8 years.

These deaths could have been prevented.

Why was asbestos so widely used?

Asbestos was included in a wide range of materials used to construct homes. It was an attractive addition due to its unique properties including extreme durability and heat resistance. 

Further reading:
>> From the Stone Age to the Egyptians and Romans - the history of asbestos
>> History of asbestos - from the Middle Ages to the 18th Century
>> From the 18th century to now - the story of asbestos

Asbestos was used in insulation, ceiling and floor tiles, walls, windows and numerous other places. The wonders of asbestos made the use of ACMs a no brainer and between 1950 and 1985 construction companies pretty much shoved it in everything.

Generally, health risks decrease if asbestos remains fully intact, but if the material seems damaged in any way, broken or worn, fibres can become airborne putting anyone in close proximity at risk of exposure to a number of illnesses, including chronic lung disease, asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.

For more information please click visit the Health and Safety Executive website.

Contrary to popular belief, Asbestos Containing Materials do not always need to be removed. ACMs that are in good condition and are not likely to be damaged or disturbed are sometimes best left in place and managed.

I think there might be asbestos in my home - what do I do now?

If you fear Asbestos might be lurking in your pre 2000 home, please get in touch. 

We can carry out a simple sample test if there is an item you are concerned about, or carry out an Asbestos Survey to identify if there is any potential risk from ACMs in your home. 

If you are aware of the risks, you are able to manage them; ignorance is not bliss when exposure comes back and bites you in the future.

For more information, or help with any asbestos management issues you may have, you can contact us either via our Enquiry form or call us on 01634 23 22 21  and we can guide you safely through the process. 

Don't wait and worry.