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Asbestos is one of those construction materials that originally seemed like a great building solution as with many other things such as lead paint, but then ended up posing a risk to public health which was only discovered many years later. Now people spend all their time attempting to get rid of it but unfortunately it isn’t as easy as it may seem due to the health risks involved. For many people purchasing their first home you may not be familiar with what asbestos is exactly, how it looks or how to deal with it.

Asbestos was traditionally used as insulation and fireproofing material for buildings but was later found to cause cancer or problems with the lungs, significantly reducing a person’s life expectancy after being in contact with asbestos. As a result of this it is extremely important that it is dealt with in the right way, in order to avoid any problems. Removal of asbestos can also be very expensive due to the specialist nature of identifying and removing it.

When buying a home, surveys will usually identify any asbestos materials or other harmful substances. Generally new properties should not have any asbestos as most materials stopped being made using asbestos after the mid-80s. Many construction materials were made from asbestos including roofing, pipes, cisterns and gas flues, so there are many different possibilities around the home that could contain asbestos material. Therefore if you purchase an older home, dated before the 1990’s it is a good idea to check your home or get professional advice if you are unsure.

It is worth noting though that there are different types of asbestos as it is made up of certain materials. Chrysotile for example, known as white asbestos, is actually considered the least dangerous and so in some cases you don’t need to worry too much. For many materials asbestos was combined with other things such as cement and so the asbestos content was quite minimal.

If you discover asbestos materials around your home then you will need to consult a specialist to get advice. If it needs removing you will need to find a licensed removal contractor to organise the safe removal of it. If a survey finds asbestos within your home, you may find it difficult to sell your home as potential buyers feel put off by the health risks preventing you from getting a quick house sale. However it is not illegal to have asbestos cement material in your home, as health professionals believe it is safer to leave it alone, as long as it is undamaged than to risk disturbing it through removal, so you need to get advice and weight up the risks involved. You can get lots of helpful information and advice from the HSE website regarding asbestos materials, including external construction materials such as pipes and roofing to internal textured materials like Artex. The same precautions need to be made when it comes to internal asbestos coverings too.

by Cormac Henderson

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