During the 1980s, the UK began implementing a gradual ban on the use of asbestos in building materials, as well as guidelines on how the substance should be managed safely in existing buildings. We now know that asbestos exposure is linked directly to a range of fatal diseases, although not all asbestos types are equally dangerous.
In this article, we examine the 3 most common types of asbestos found in UK buildings, and the most important things you need to know about each type.
Also known as white asbestos, chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos. It’s estimated that chrysotile accounts for 90% of all asbestos currently found in buildings.
White asbestos comes from serpentine stone with fine but flexible fibres that have good tensile strength as well as heat resistance. These properties made white asbestos a common choice as an additive to cement, walls, and roofs. Chrysotile is also found in roofing insulation materials.
Like other types of asbestos, chrysotile exposure is a known cause of respiratory disease, although this specific type carries a lower risk than brown or blue asbestos. This is because the body can expel some chrysotile fibres over time.
Amosite or brown asbestos is coarser and stronger than chrysolite. Its properties made it a common choice for insulating boards, ceiling tiles, cement sheets, and other rigid construction materials.
It’s precisely because amosite fibres are so strong that they pose a special health hazard, as they can become embedded in lung tissue and the body can’t partly expel them, as it would with white asbestos. Amosite has been banned in the UK since 1985.
Crocidolite or blue asbestos contains short and sharp fibres that can easily puncture lung tissue and/or become embedded in it, causing inflammation, scarring, and irreversible damage. Moreover, crocidolite fibres are brittle compared to other types of asbestos, so they can easily break off building materials and become airborne. Crocidolite use has also been banned in the UK since 1985.
Managing and Mitigating Your Asbestos Risk
Unless you are equipped with the correct PPE or have the appropriate training and experience, any exposure to asbestos can be harmful, irrespective of the type involved. If you think asbestos could be present in the projects you manage, you can benefit from the support of a qualified laboratory like OMC Consultants. We have more than 30 years’ experience working with major industry clients to implement the right asbestos management solution for each project. Get in touch today for a free quote, or to discuss your requirements with one of our experienced consultants.
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