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Health & Safety, Dangers of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs)

Dangers of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs)

Asbestos has historically been used extensively in all types of building and plant. Whilst the dangers to health have been known since the beginning of the 20th century, these were not taken seriously until the late 60's and 70's. However, blue and brown asbestos continued to be used until they were banned in 1985, and white asbestos was not banned until Nov 1999. Blue and brown asbestos are more dangerous than white, because of their diameter, shape and other qualities.

The main risk of asbestos to health arises from the fibres being released into the air and breathed in. This can lead to asbestos-related diseases - mainly cancers of the lung and chest lining. Onset of these diseases can vary from 15 to 60 years. It is generally accepted that there is also a (low) health risk from the ingestion of asbestos fibres - ingestion could occur from the deterioration of the linings of water tanks and pipes due to the acid content of water.

The policy of the HSE on ACMs is as follows:

  • ACMs which are in good condition and are not releasing dust should not be disturbed
  • ACMs which are damaged, deteriorating, releasing dust or which are likely to do so should be sealed, enclosed or removed as appropriate
  • ACMs left in place should be managed and their condition periodically checked
  • establish an order of priority in which remedial work should be undertaken
  • use substitute materials where possible, provided they perform adequately.

Asbestos can be found in a wide variety of materials and components. For a list of materials and an indication of the risk they pose in respect of the ease of fibre release download the ACM Product Chart.

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