The word BISF is synonymous with post war prefabricated buildings. This same word is often followed sooner or later by the words Asbestos but what do you really know about Asbestos in your own BISF home?
Asbestos strikes fear into most minds. Indeed 4000 people lose their lives every year from serious asbestos related diseases caused by inhaling asbestos fibres.
There are four main diseases caused by asbestos: mesothelioma (which is always fatal), lung cancer (almost always fatal), asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be very debilitating) and diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal).
Asbestos fibres are naturally present in the environment, so people are potentially exposed to low levels of fibres every day of their lives. However, a key factor in the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is the total number of fibres breathed in. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, which may be many hundreds of times that of environmental levels can increase your chances of getting an asbestos-related disease which won’t affect you immediately but may later in life. You should protect yourself now to prevent you contracting an asbestos-related disease in the future. It is also important to remember that people who smoke and are also exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Many different forms of asbestos can be found in almost any home no matter what the construction type.
BISF houses stand out more because of the Corrugated Asbestos Roofing Sheets that were used in their construction which are clearly visible from the street.
Other forms of asbestos can be found in: Asbestos cement products. Textured Paint Coatings similar to Artex. Floor tiles, textiles and composites. Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls and beams, Asbestos insulating board, Lagging, Loose asbestos in ceiling or floor cavity, Fibre Board Panels, Toilet cisterns and even Ironing Boards.
While the most dangerous forms of asbestos brown ( amosite) and blue ( crocidolite) were banned from use by the 1985 UK Asbestos (Prohibition) Regulations, followed by the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations in 1987 giving tighter controls to prevent exposure to asbestos in the workplace, it was not until 1992 that white (chrysotile) asbestos was banned too.
Considered less hazardous, chrysotile continued to be used with building items like asbestos insulating board, textured surface coatings, boiler pipe lagging, sprayed loft insulation, cement roofing and side panels. It wasn’t until 1998 that a ban on AIB was introduced and all white asbestos use, prohibited by an European Commission ruling the following year, came into force, January 2005.
White asbestos is considered low risk if it is discovered and immediately and managed by professional encapsulation or entirely removed and properly disposed of by authorised and approved a contractors. However, identifying and distinguishing asbestos from modern and identical looking materials can be difficult and any worn, damaged or discoloured wall board, surface coating, tile or infill packing which appears to be in a friable (fragile, disintegrating) condition should be considered suspect and not handled until professionally analysed.
The DETR give the guiding principles for the management of asbestos materials as:
- Asbestos materials, which are sound, undamaged and not releasing fibres should not be disturbed. Their condition should be monitored on a regular basis.
- Where possible damaged materials should be repaired and then protected as necessary, provided that the repair or sealing will be durable and not likely to be disturbed.
- Removal should only be performed where repair is not possible or the material is likely to be disturbed.
Asbestos Cement is primarily a cement-based product where about 10% to 15% w/w asbestos fibres are added to reinforce the cement. Asbestos cement is weatherproof in that although it will absorb moisture, the water does not pass through the product. It was used for corrugated sheets as found in a BISF house, slates, moulded fittings, soffits and undercloak, water cisterns, rainwater gutters, down pipes, pressure pipes, underground drainage and sewer pipes, sills, copings, chalkboards, fascias, infill panels, etc. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between an asbestos cement product and a low-density insulation board. Where the product has been used as a roofing or cladding product, open to the weather, you can be confident that the product is asbestos cement. Manufacture of all low density products was stopped in the late 70’s and since they were not weather resistant, if they had been fixed outside they would have broken down long before now. If the product is moulded it will be asbestos cement as low-density products were not moulded, except as half rounds for pipe lagging.
Asbestos cement usually contained white asbestos (chrysotile) but older types may contain blue (crocidolite) or brown (amosite).
When cementitious products like asbestos cement were manufactured, they had a cement-rich surface. The asbestos fibres were encapsulated within. Thus, occupants of buildings with asbestos cement sheet or slate roofs are unlikely to be at any greater risk than people outside in the fresh air. The small quantities of fibres released during natural weathering are unlikely to be dangerous but significant and possibly dangerous amounts of fibre can be released if the products are subject to any abrasive cleaning or working. Thus, roofing operatives are more at risk from fibre exposure than any residents inside a building. It is importantÂ that building owners keep a note of any asbestos containing products in his building and advises any contractors of their location, so that they can take the necessary precautions.
If your BISF roof is made with Asbestos Cement, a licence is not needed to remove it. However, in compliance with HSE, All Roofing and Building is highly experienced in handling the product and fully aware of the strict guidelines that must be followed to remove and dispose of the product correctly. A licensed contractor is only needed to work on High Risk Asbestos such as pipe insulation or insulation panels NOT on Asbestos cement which is considered much less dangerous.
Asbestos waste is any waste, which contains more than 0.1% w/w asbestos. It is subject to the waste management controls set out in the Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005 and the agricultural waste regulations, with most properties if more than 200kg of asbestos containing waste (500kg for agricultural asbestos waste) is removed from site then the site has to be registered as a hazardous waste producer with the Environment Agency. The waste must be consigned as soon as possible by a licensed haulier to a dump licensed to take asbestos. Your local authority should have a list of licensed haulier’s and waste dumps in you area.
The above is only a brief guide, it is not a complete guide to Health and Safety responsibilities when dealing with asbestos containing products, for more information contact your competent contractor, or designer.
Known BISF Asbestos Locations
This is not an exhaustive list and may be further added to as more information is received. The below items are strongly suspected as containing asbestos cement products however this cannot be verified untill full testing is undertaken and should be viewed with that in mind.
Corrugated Asbestos Cement Roofing Sheets
Asbestos Soil Pipe Vent found in loft space above bathroom which vents out through roofing panels.
White Asbestos cement board sometimes found as a bath panel
White Asbestos Cement board found covering the ground floor exterior toilet inner walls.
A White Asbestos Cement board sometimes located near to the rear kitchen door of the property where a cooker is traditionally housed.
The above guidance is given with the best intentions but nothing in this advice shall create or be deemed to create any obligations, liability,whether expressed or implied. If you are unsure of the content of any material found in your BISF home it is your responsibility to treat it with caution and care until it can be identified by an expert.
Exposure to high levels of Asbestos over a period of time can cause a number of health problems including Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, Pleural thickening and Lung Cancer.
For further advice please visit the Health & Safety Executive Website
You may also download the PDF document http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/repsguide.pdf