Facts about Asbestos. Council policy

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1 Facts about Asbestos Winchester City Council has produced this leaflet to give its tenants advice and information about the possible presence of asbestos in and around their homes. Its content gives general information about asbestos, where it can be found and addresses some of the most frequently asked questions. Council policy We are constantly surveying properties and updating our asbestos records. In this way we are able to: confirm the exact location of suspected asbestos identify the type of asbestos present if any monitor the condition of the material

2 What is Asbestos? Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was used extensively in the construction of both domestic and commercial buildings. The use of building materials and products containing asbestos peaked in the 1970s but has now been phased out. Why may Asbestos be a Problem? When some asbestos materials age or become 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 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. Where was it Used? ln domestic premises asbestos was commonly used in the manufacture of soffits, gutters and down pipes. It was also used as a roofing material for garages, car ports and garden sheds. It has been used in a variety of other building materials - decorative coatings such as textured paints and plasters. These are still widely in place but supply and application has been prohibited since Plastic floor tiles, cushion flooring, roofing felts, tapes, ropes, and fire blankets can also contain asbestos. Asbestos has also been used in some heat-resistant household products, such as oven gloves and ironing boards. The use of asbestos in these products decreased greatly around the mid-1980s and, since 1993, the use of asbestos in most products has been banned. Cavity wall insulation and commercially available loft insulation does not contain asbestos. 1

3 How can I Identify Products or Materials Containing Asbestos? It is not always easy to tell whether a product contains asbestos as modern asbestos-free materials often look similar - remember it is usually older products that contain asbestos. Unless you are experienced in these matters it is very unlikely that you will be able to identify a product that contains asbestos. Therefore if you have any concerns please contact the Customer Service Centre for advice. Is Everyone Exposed to Asbestos? There is a very low level of fibres in the air everywhere because asbestos has been used over many years. 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. It is very unlikely that the levels of asbestos fibres found in buildings will be harmful, but if you have damaged asbestos materials in your home you should seek advice. 2

4 3 Take Care when doing DIY As some materials may contain asbestos, extra care should be taken when carrying out DIY. Do not attempt work involving sprayed coatings, lagging or insulating boards. If these materials contain asbestos, a licensed asbestos removal contractor must undertake the removal work. If you do any DIY with materials that may contain asbestos take the following precautions: Keep other people away from the area of work. Wear protective clothing (e.g. overalls), preferably disposable, and avoid breathing in asbestos dust (a disposable dust mask CE marked to EN 149 with FFP3 particulate filters is recommended). Keep asbestos materials wet to avoid producing dust. Work outside if possible and avoid working overhead. Do not drill, cut or disturb asbestos unless absolutely necessary. Do not scrape or sand asbestos materials before painting and decorating. Some types of asbestos materials are very soft and can release large numbers of fibres if rubbed or scraped. Use hand tools rather than power tools. Do not use a domestic vacuum cleaner to clear up the dust. Hire an industrial vacuum cleaner that conforms to BS 5415 (Type H). When you have finished work, clean up and then take off the overalls carefully to avoid raising any dust, which may have collected in the fabric. In the case of disposable overalls, double-bag them, clearly mark ASBESTOS on the bag and dispose of them as asbestos waste. Wash non-disposable overalls straight away, separately from other clothing, in a washing machine. How should I Dispose of Asbestos? Wet small amounts of asbestos waste and put it in two strong plastic or polythene bags (effectively double bagging the material) - seal this tightly and clearly mark it ASBESTOS. Do not break up large asbestoscement sheets - they do not need to be sealed in bags but should be double wrapped in strong polythene or similar sheeting and disposed of as asbestos waste. Contact your local Household Recycling Centre and ask what their arrangements are for disposing of asbestos containing materials.

5 Frequently Asked Questions This section contains a list of some of the questions on asbestos, which are commonly asked by tenants of Winchester City Council. Q. Just how dangerous is asbestos? A. Asbestos is a mineral substance that can split into many tiny fibres. Levels encountered by members of the general public do not usually present a risk to health. Nevertheless, it is wise to take precautions if you are handling, working with or likely to disturb any substance or material that you suspect may contain asbestos. It is always better to err on the side of caution. Q. Are old asbestos products more dangerous? A. Not necessarily. Asbestos fibres are very stable and will not normally change over time but the building material itself may deteriorate depending on type and location. As a general rule, external products that are exposed to the elements are more likely to deteriorate with age, making fibre release more probable. Different materials contain different amounts of asbestos fibres; the key issues are therefore the condition and type of material. If the material is in good condition and is left alone, it does not present a health risk. Bonded asbestos materials such as thermoplastic tiles, asbestos cement gutters, soffits, downpipes and corrugated roof sheets, are far less breakable than insulation board and may not release many fibres even if disturbed. Q. Should all asbestos products be removed from buildings? A. It is recommended that, if it is undamaged and unlikely to be disturbed, materials containing asbestos should be left in place. As an extra precaution the material can be sealed or encapsulated, if accidental mechanical damage is likely, and in some locations it may be sensible to remove the product although it should be stressed that there is no legal obligation to remove asbestos. 4

6 Q. I think I have asbestos in my property. Are there any special precautions I should take? A. Winchester City Council is responsible for most elements on or in your property. Most of the asbestos containing materials are likely to be asbestos cement products and are likely to be outdoors so there is unlikely to be any risk of serious exposure to asbestos fibres. However, asbestos cement sheets can be found internally and if it is in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed, material containing asbestos should be left in place, if necessary sealing it with paint or encapsulating the product. Other types of asbestos can be found in coatings such as Artex, advice should be sought before attempting to redecorate these surfaces. Q. The paint on my asbestos soffit boards is flaking. What is the best way to renovate and redecorate them? A. Winchester City Council is responsible for this element and any necessary remedial action will be addressed in Winchester City Council s planned maintenance programme. Q. How should I clean my asbestos cement corrugated roof? A. Again, Winchester City Council is responsible for this element. Any necessary remedial action will be addressed in Winchester City Council s planned maintenance programme. Q. I live in a block of council-owned flats where asbestos has been used in construction. Whose responsibility is it to deal with the asbestos? A. The management of asbestos in any building is the responsibility of the building owner, in this case the council. 5 Q. What requirement is there for landlords to inform tenants of the presence of asbestos in a house? A. There are regulations that require landlords to provide and maintain rented accommodation in a fit state of repair but at present there is no specific legal requirement for landlords to inform tenants of the presence of asbestos or to remove asbestos containing materials. However, in certain situations where the landlord should reasonably be aware of its presence and if it presents a significant risk to the tenant, there is a duty of care to manage the risk.

7 For Your Own Safety and Wellbeing Remember: Avoid disturbing or damaging asbestos materials in good condition. Do not keep using oven gloves or other small items containing asbestos - dispose of them safely (see section on disposal of asbestos). Avoid creating asbestos dust. Avoid breathing asbestos dust. Asbestos material in good condition is not a health risk and should be left alone. If you suspect you have damaged or deteriorating asbestos containing materials in your home then please contact the Customer Service Centre. 6

8 If in any doubt, contact the Customer Service Centre for Advice. You can Help Us by: Reporting any disrepair to the fabric of the building, to the Customer Service Centre on as quickly as possible. The sooner we are advised the quicker we can assess the situation and take any remedial action if it is considered necessary. Further Advice Should you intend carrying out extensive DIY in your home, over and above normal redecoration, if you are in any doubt as to whether there is asbestos in your home, contact the Customer Service Centre for advice on If you have any particular needs which affect how you are able to use or be involved in our services or how you would like to receive information for example translation, interpreters, Braille, audio tape, large print, sign language - please contact the Customer Service Centre either by telephone or by LDS Jan 2010 Designed and printed by Winchester City Council Telephone calls may be recorded

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