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Asbestos Fibres, Asbestos Dust, how to avoid both with an Asbestos Survey
Posted by David Cant on March 5, 2009

 Asbestos Fibres

Did you know that the name Asbestos derives from the Greek word a-, “not”; sbestos, “extinguishable”. Some say that this term may refer to the everlasting wicks of the ‘Eternal Flame’ in the temple of the Vestal Virgins, or possibly an alternate translation such as “indestructible” maybe more appropriate.

You can safely say that it is not a product due to modern science.

Asbestos is naturally occurring and can be found throughout the world. Most commercially used asbestos came from the former Soviet Union, Canada (white asbestos), South Africa (brown asbestos), and Australia (blue asbestos) although the material can be found, in one form or another, almost anywhere, including the UK.

Asbestos fibres are extracted using mainly open cast mining techniques.

It has been estimated that between 2,500 and 5,000 different types of commercial products have been manufactured containing asbestos. The quantity of asbestos in each product varies from as little as 0.1% to as much as 100 percent.

Many older plastics, paper products, brake linings, floor tiles and textile products contain asbestos, as do many heavy industrial products such as sealants, cement pipe, cement sheets, and insulation. Asbestos cement materials are the products most generally recognised by the public at large.


An Asbestos Survey will help avoid the deadly dust


Structures and Buildings constructed before 2000 is thought to contain Asbestos of one type or another. Different asbestos types are found in schools, factories, public buildings even domestic properties, therefore you can safely say that asbestos in some form or other has woven itself into our lives, but largely unseen.

The properties and versatility of asbestos made it an excellent building material. Also asbestos was manufactured to form an excellent thermal insulating material where it has been used to lag heating pipes and structural steelwork to prevent the spread of fire. It is also a very good electrical insulating material and its extremely high tensile strength has been used to give that impressive strength to a very wide range of other products such as gaskets. The long flexible fibres have been woven into rope and cloth and used for fire protection and sealing of joints.

Asbestos is highly resilient and does not degrade and it is not surprising that it was so widley used. However, unfortunately, it can also be very deadly! Large numbers of people are now suffering quickly and dying from past exposure to asbestos dust which an asbestos survey would help avoid but will continue to do so unless action is taken.


Asbestos Survey and the legal duty to manage


If you own, occupy, manage or have responsibilities for non-domestic premises which may contain asbestos you have a legal duty to manage the risk from exposure to this material – Regulation 4 Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

There are three main types of asbestos that remain in premises today undiscovered. These are commonly called ‘blue asbestos’ (crocidolite), ‘brown asbestos’ (amosite) and ‘white asbestos’ (chrysotile). All asbestos are dangerous, but mostly blue and brown asbestos’ are more hazardous than much common white, but unfortunately you cannot identify them by their colour.

Although there are limited exceptions, it is now illegal to use manufacture and import asbestos into industry such as the construction or refurbishment of any premises, many thousands of tonnes of asbestos were used in the past and much of it is still remains in place unidentified.

So long as asbestos remains undisturbed and in good condition there is little or no risk. But if it is inadvertently disturbed or damaged, it can become a serious danger to your health, because the deadly asbestos fibres become airborne and in turn can be breathed in.

Believe it or not, but there are still approximately 1,800,000 commercial/ industrial premises, in the UK that are likely to contain asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Unless dangerous asbestos materials are properly managed or removed anyone who has access to buildings, that could mean employees, public even maintenance workers are put at risk from exposure to the deadly asbestos dust, this is the life-threatening fibres of asbestos.

One recognised way of identifying asbestos containing materials (ACMs) is by undertaking an asbestos survey which is required due to the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR), don’t you owe it to yourself your friends and your family to know more?



Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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