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How a few minutes of DIY could end up costing you your life

How a few minutes of DIY could end up costing you your life

Posted on Tuesday 12th April 2016 by Graham

As we enter Spring and the Bank Holiday season many of us will be doing a bit of DIY around the house, but have you ever considered that this could be damaging our health and even put our lives at risk?

Without knowing it you could be exposing your lungs to asbestos fibres if your property was built pre-2000.

Asbestos is still a risk

Experts warn that just a few hours' exposure to these harmful toxic fibres can be enough to cause problems later in life. Asbestos is still very much a risk, mainly due to thousands of home-owners who could unwittingly disturb asbestos while carrying out DIY or home renovations.

Sadly, the number of people dying each year from mesothelioma has nearly quadrupled in the past 30 years and is expected to peak this year.

The risk of asbestos related health problems only became widely known as recently as the mid 1970's and the time span between exposure and diagnosis is estimated at 30 to 40 years.

Exposed to asbestos without realising it

With asbestos still lurking in millions of buildings built or renovated pre-2000 across the UK, it seems many of us are still exposing ourselves to asbestos without even realising it, some simple DIY could be potentially harmful or even fatal.

Unfortunately many seem to think that because asbestos was widely banned in the UK back in 1999 it’s no longer an issue. Sadly that is NOT the case!

The problem today is that people unknowingly disturb asbestos in their homes without even realising it is there when they take on simple DIY projects, and this will continue if we do not educate people to the risks.

What to do if you come across asbestos

If you are concerned or worried that you may have exposed asbestos whilst doing some DIY around the house what do you do?

Whatever you do...DO NOT even attempt to repair or remove any asbestos materials yourself, especially if you have not had any form of training for non-licensed asbestos work.

In the first instance seek some advice from an environmental health officer and if you are certain that your home contains asbestos materials then I strongly recommend that you leave them exactly where they are, especially if they are still in a good condition and not damaged.

Any damaged asbestos material that is likely to deteriorate should be removed if it cannot be protected. Certain asbestos containing materials, such as:

  • sprayed asbestos coatings
  • asbestos lagging
  • asbestos insulation
  • asbestos insulating board

should only be removed by a contractor licensed by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Your local environmental health officer can also provide advice on this for you.

If you plan any DIY home improvements or and will be using other tradespeople, then you must inform them of any possible asbestos materials in the property before they commence any work.

By doing this it will also help to reduce the risks of any asbestos containing materials (ACMs) being damaged or disturbed. We strongly recommend the use of trained professionals to carry out any repairs or removal of ACMs.

Useful advice to help protect yourself

  • Any home built or refurbished pre-2000 may contain asbestos. It is usually found in such places as ceiling and garage roof tiles, pipe lagging, old boilers, textured or sprayed coatings and cavity-wall insulation. Other possible areas are around window frames.
  • Asbestos can come in all shapes, sizes and colours (blue, brown and white), which are found in various building products. Due to the fact it was often mixed with other materials, it can sometimes be difficult to identify. The Health & Safety Executive has a very useful image gallery on their website of typical asbestos-containing materials. Just visit hse.gov.uk/asbestos/gallery.htm
  • Asbestos materials that are undisturbed, undamaged and in good condition are generally not a health risk and should be fine if you leave them alone. I recommend that you regularly check their condition to be sure that they haven't deteriorated.
  • If you do have to remove any asbestos then it's crucial that you use a trained, reputable, licensed contractor to handle and dispose of it properly.

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