Where can you find asbestos?

Prior to the year 2000 asbestos was a common fire-resistant insulation material used in construction, and it can still be found in many types of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings, including homes, schools, offices, factories, and hospitals.

There were an incredible variety of uses for asbestos in construction, and you can still find building materials made with asbestos in buildings from the basement floor to the roof, as part of the cement, the tiles on the floors, the insulation, and even sprayed coatings on the walls and ceilings.

The following is a list of common areas where asbestos can be found, and a description of the type of material and the level of health hazard:

Vinyl Floor Tiles

Vinyl flooring tiles, the backing, and the glue or adhesives may contain asbestos, with the fibers having been added to strengthen the material and increase it’s durability. While in good shape the floor tiles are generally considered non-hazardous. If the tiles are damaged or can be crumbled by hand pressure they are considered to be a health hazard.

Pipe Lagging and Insulation

Asbestos can be found in the lagging and insulation of the hot water and steam pipes and boilers used in heating systems. The most common appearance is a fibrous material that is powdery or flakes easily. Lagging and pipe insulation are considered to be some of the most dangerous materials that contain asbestos, because any disturbance of the materials could cause fibers to be released into the air and be inhaled.

Asbestos Cement

Asbestos cement is a mix of up to one-third white asbestos and cement, and is compressed or moulded to form cement products. These would normally be found in farm or industrial buildings as large sheets of corrugated cement, or in the roofs of sheds and garages. Other uses are wall cladding, downpipes and gutters, cement flues, water tanks, and fire surrounds. As long as the cement is in good shape it is not considered a hazard, but if it is broken up and deteriorating there is a risk of exposure to the asbestos fiber.

Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB)

AIB was commonly used in the UK between the 1930s and 1980 as a fireproofing material. It was also used to partition walls, as plasterboard, and for ceiling tiles. While in good shape it is not considered a hazard and it should not be disturbed. If disturbed or in poor condition the low-density AIB has a greater likelihood of fibers being released, and the health hazard is potentially high.

Textured Coatings

From the 1920s to the 1980s textured coatings with asbestos were popular decorative finishes on concrete, walls, and ceilings to provide visual interest, soundproofing, and fire-resistance. Textured coatings in good repair are a low risk for exposure, but if the coating is damaged or crumbling the health risks can increase dramatically.

Sprayed Coatings

Sprayed asbestos coatings are adhesives or resins mixed with asbestos fiber that were sprayed on to surfaces to provide acoustic and thermal insulation and fireproofing. Used from the 1950s to the late 1970s, it can be found on the underside of roofs and floors, and on reinforced concrete columns and steel beams. The sprayed coating may contain over 80% asbestos, and is easy to disturb or damage, causing it to be one of the most dangerous asbestos materials.

Loose Fill Asbestos

Loose fill asbestos was used as insulation for both commercial and residential buildings, and it is a loose, fluffy material that can be whitish or bluish grey in colour. This material is considered to be one of the most dangerous asbestos products as it is made of pure asbestos, and if disturbed can easily release fibres that cause an inhalation risk.

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