Asbestos in the home
When materials which contain asbestos are damaged or deteriorate with age, they can release fibres into the air. The shape and size of the fibres enables them to penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can stay for a long time causing possible damage to lung tissue. Blue and brown asbestos are thought to be the most dangerous forms due to their size and shape.
Asbestos has been widely used and as a result there is a low level of asbestos in the air everywhere. While asbestos is potentially a very hazardous material, the risk to the public from asbestos in the home is low; however levels of fibres may be higher in buildings containing asbestos materials.
The greater risk to health arises when asbestos is damaged or if the material is drilled, sawn, scrubbed or sanded. If you suspect that a material might contain asbestos do not carry out work on it but seek expert advice as DIY work can cause high, short-term exposures to asbestos fibres.
There are three main conditions associated with exposure to asbestos: asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma and these are nearly always industrial diseases. The diseases may take between 10 and 60 years to develop to the point where they can be diagnosed.
You cannot accurately identify asbestos material by simply looking at it. The only way to know for sure whether a product contains asbestos and what type is to have it tested.
The Asbestos Information Centre (AIC) has compiled lists to help identify asbestos in the home.