Asbestos in Plaster Walls
It’s a question we get asked frequently by clients. Homeowners are often concerned about embarking on DIY, before knowing whether they’d be disturbing asbestos material. Or office managers may be planning minor refurbishments and want to know what safety precautions they should take before giving the ‘go ahead’.
Asbestos is Common in Pre-1985 UK Properties
We always start out by asking about the date their property was built. If it was before 1985 it’s highly likely that wall plaster, or textured wall coating contains asbestos. Why? Because asbestos is an effective fire resistant material and was cheaply available for use, right up until the mid 80s. It was the obvious choice, therefore, to mix in with plaster or coating on fire-rated walls and ceilings.
Why is it Important to Identify Asbestos in Plaster Walls?
Asbestos is made up of fine fibres which, when disturbed, become airborne. If breathed in over a long period of time, or in heavy concentrations, the fibres become a danger to health. Once inside the body asbestos fibres can lodge in the lungs, and cause scarring which makes breathing difficult. Asbestos has also been found to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma.
So long as walls or ceilings that contain asbestos remain undamaged, they are considered to be ‘inert’. This means that the asbestos poses minimal threat to people using the rooms where’s it’s found. If, however, the plaster is damaged, or there are plans to remove decorative coating, or re-plaster the wall, steps should be taken to mitigate the risks of airborne asbestos.
How to Identify Asbestos in Plaster in Walls
We would recommend that the first thing you do is to ascertain the age of the building. If it’s pre-1985 and you’re not aware of major re-furbishment in the past 20 years, you can be pretty sure that there is asbestos contained in the plaster. It’s almost impossible to visually identify the presence of asbestos so we would recommend that the next step would be contacting an HSE licensed asbestos removal company to test samples of the plaster.
How Do Asbestos Surveys Work?
An Asbestos Survey will locate, as far as possible, all possible sources of asbestos in your home or workplace. Assessors will then take samples from – for example – plasterwork, or ceiling coating, and send them off to the laboratory for analysis. The survey report will define the kinds of asbestos found, the danger they pose if disturbed, and the levels of ongoing risk management required.
Asbestos was banned as a construction material back in 1999, but we’re still living with its legacy in the UK. There are still 5,000 asbestos-related deaths each year, making it a major hazard which is best dealt with by trained professionals. If you do discover asbestos in your plasterwork at home, we would seriously recommend that you work with asbestos removals professionals to clear it out of your home.
If you are worried that your home or place of work may contain asbestos, call the Amianto asbestos professionals today for advice, and support on 07890 580507/ 01707 707050