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The European Union banned all use of asbestos, as well as the extraction, manufacture, and processing of asbestos products. However, asbestos is not just a problem of the past. Asbestos can be found in any industrial or residential building built or refurbished before the year 2000. It is in many of the common materials used in the building trade.

Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, this is more than the number of people killed on the road. Around 20 tradesman die each week as a result of past exposure.

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals which was used commercially for their desirable physical properties including:

  • Resistance to chemicals as well as heat
  • Low energy conductivity
  • Flexibility
  • High tensile toughness
  • Asbestos can be bonded straight into various building materials as well as woven straight into textiles. It even now remains probably the most effective form of fire protection available.

Asbestos can be found:


  1. Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls, beams and columns
  2. Asbestos cement water tank
  3. Loose fill insulation
  4. Lagging on boilers and pipes
  5. AIB ceiling tiles
  6. Toilet seat and cistern
  7. AIB partition walls
  8. AIB panels in fire doors
  9. Asbestos rope seals, gaskets and paper
  10. Vinyl floor tiles
  11. AIB around boilers
  12. Textiles eg fire blankets
  13. Textured decorating coatings on walls and ceilings eg artex


  1. Asbestos cement roof
  2. Asbestos cement panels
  3. Asbestos cement gutters and downpipes
  4. Soffits – AIB or asbestos cement
  5. Asbestos cement flue


Primarily in the UK there are three main types of asbestos used:

Called ‘brown’ asbestos, Amosite is the most common member with the amphibole collection and has been commercially mined within South Africa. Amosite is seen under a microscope as a grey-white vitreous fiber. It is found most frequently as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products, asbestos insulating board and ceiling tiles.

Popularly known as ‘ white’ asbestos, Chrysotile is a member with the group of minerals known as serpentine. Chrysotile is more flexible than amphibole types of asbestos, and can be spun and woven into fabric. Its most common use has been in corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets typically used for outbuildings, warehouses and garages.

Crocidolite is another member of the amphibole collection and popularly known as ‘ blue’ asbestos. Crocidolite commonly occurs as soft friable fibers. Asbestiform amphibole may also occur as soft friable fibers but some varieties such as amosite are commonly straighter. Commonly applied as sprayed insulation, Crocidolite is seen as one of the most deadly forms of Asbestos.