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Asbestos

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council carried out a condition survey on all the council's garages and the results showed that some contain asbestos in their roofs.

Asbestos is a substance that is found in many buildings and structures built between the 1950s and 1980s. It is usually safe if left alone. However, if your garage is one of those that has been identified as having asbestos, we do advise you not to carry out any drilling or work to the garage roof that could result in the asbestos being disturbed or damaged.

We would like to reassure you that there is minimal risk to you and that asbestos in a common building material. But we appreciate that you may have concerns about it. 

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural mineral made up of small fibres. There are three main types, called white, brown and blue asbestos (though the names do not reflect the materials' actual colour). Asbestos has been used in property building for many years, but its peak use in this country was in the 1960s and 1970s. Since 1993, the use of asbestos in most products has been banned.

Is asbestos harmful?

Asbestos used in buildings is not usually harmful, so long as it is in good condition and left undisturbed. The kind of asbestos that was used in the construction of the council's garages is white, the least harmful variety.

However, when asbestos materials become damaged they can release fibres or dust particles into the air, and these can cause a risk to health. It is therefore important that you do not drill, saw or disturb materials that contain asbestos.

Typical places where asbestos can be found

These are some of the places where asbestos is often found: 

  • Roof tiles and wall cladding
  • Guttering, down pipes and soffits
  • Corrugated roof sheeting
  • Water tanks
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Textured coatings (such as Artex)

The asbestos in the council's garages

The council garages have asbestos cement roofs. This is where asbestos has been added to cement. It is the most widely used asbestos material.

Asbestos cement product presents a low risk as the asbestos fibres they contain are held in the cement matrix and will only be released if the material becomes damaged i.e. when drilled, sawn, scrubbed or sanded, or has deteriorated through age and wear and tear.

Why may asbestos be a problem?

When asbestos materials age or becomes damaged they can release fibres into the air. These can be breathed deep into the lung where they may stay for a long time, causing possible damage. When very high levels of these fibres are breathed in there is a risk of lung diseases, including cancer.

People who have worked with asbestos for many years as part of their job or have washed the dusty clothing of those who worked with asbestos are most likely to be affected. Workplace regulations now protect such people.

Is everyone exposed to asbestos?

There is very low level of fibres in the air everywhere because asbestos has been used widely. Exposure to this low level of fibres is unlikely to harm people's health.

Levels of fibres may be higher in buildings containing asbestos materials, especially where the material are damaged. It is unlikely that the levels of asbestos fibres found in buildings will be harmful.

What should I do if I have asbestos in my property?

The general rule is to always leave asbestos alone. It is usually safe unless it's damaged or disturbed. To protect it, you can paint indoor materials with an alkali resistant paint such as PVA emulsion.

High, short-term exposures to asbestos fibres can occur during DIY work. For this reason, try not to raise dust when working with materials which might contain asbestos, and avoid sanding and drilling.

Always seek advice before thinking of removing asbestos and do not try to remove it yourself.

Other useful advice

The Health and Safety Executive: www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos

Further information about asbestos is available on the council's website: www.welhat.gov.uk

If you have any other queries please contact the Garages Team.

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