Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made up of long, thin, crystalline fibres. It is also a hazardous material and can be very damaging to human health and the environment. As it does not break down easily, asbestos remains in the environment for a long time.
There are six types of asbestos:
- white asbestos (also called chrysotile or serpentine)
- brown asbestos (also called amosite or grunerite)
- blue asbestos (also called crocidolite or riebeckite)
Large amounts of asbestos-containing materials were used for a wide range of construction purposes in new and refurbished buildings until 1999 when the use of asbestos was banned. Asbestos may be found in the floor, wall, ceiling or roofing materials of any building built or refurbished before 2000, or in contaminated soils.
If breathed in, asbestos fibres can cause serious lung diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.
People most at risk from exposure to asbestos are those who are liable to disturb it during their daily work. This includes the main construction trades and maintenance workers, such as electricians, joiners, plasterers, roofers, heating and ventilation engineers and surveyors.
You may have to comply with legal duties relating to asbestos if you own or operate a building, if you work in construction, demolition or building maintenance, or if you dispose of asbestos waste.
This guide describes how to comply with asbestos legislation that relates to environmental management. It explains how to identify asbestos and gives information on working with and disposing of asbestos.