A Brief History Of Asbestos

Asbestos is a truly remarkable material. It has a host of unique properties that mean it was, and still is, used for a huge range of applications. Not only does it have a higher tensile strength than steel but it also has tremendous thermal stability. Its thermal, electrical and chemical resistance make it the material of choice for fireproofing. During the mid-twentieth-century pure asbestos fibres were woven into suits, used by the Fire Brigade!

When Was Asbestos First Used?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and some of the earliest evidence of its use can be traced back as far as 750,000 years ago. Fibres were used in the stone age for candle wicks and lanterns. The people of East Finland used the mineral, some 4,500 years ago, to strengthen and add fire resistance to clay pots. My favourite use of Asbestos is by the Persian people who discovered that this ‘stone wool’ could be made into tablecloths. At the end of their banquet the tablecloth would be thrown onto the fire and, to the amazement of their guests, instead of burning to ashes, would be pulled out perfectly cleaned.

The use of Asbestos went into decline during the middle ages. However, there was a big revival during the industrial revolution in the late 1800s. There was demand for asbestos products in the construction of the railways. They were used for lining the boilers and pipework, a practice that was then adopted by the ship building industry. Despite the health dangers of using this material becoming more apparent as we approached the 1920s – 1930s, the use of Asbestos had another big boost by the building industry in the 1940s. Due to its fantastic properties, and people’s wishes for their homes to be safe and warm, asbestos was being used in a huge array of materials such as,

  • Ironing Boards & Irons
  • Toasters
  • Cigarette Filters
  • Crayons
  • Hairdryers
  • Electric Blankets
  • Cosmetics
  • Fertilizer & Potting Compost
  • Car brake pads

Use Of Asbestos in Modern Times

The use of Amosite and Crocidolite were banned in the UK 1985 but it wasn’t until November 1999 that the UK Government banned the use and import of Chrysotile materials. Of course, use of these materials may well have carried on into the early 21st century as retailers slowly got rid of old stocks. This means that any home built prior to 2000 could potentially contain asbestos in one form or another. It’s not uncommon to find asbestos ironing boards still in use and we have come across two this year already!

Where are you likely to find Asbestos in your home?

As Asbestos could be in so many different places and in so many different materials the only way to be absolutely sure is to arrange for a full and thorough survey. It is more commonly found in properties that had renovation or refurbishments during the 1940s – 1980s. Typical items we see include;

  • Rope cords to Sash Windows
  • Asbestos Insulating Panels to doors, walls and ceilings
  • Toilet Cisterns
  • Pipe Lagging & Boiler Flue Pipes
  • Window Putty
  • Textured Coatings such as Artex Ceilings
  • Stair Nosing
  • Fuse Boards and Textile Flash guards
  • Corrugated Asbestos Cement – Often on shed and garage roofs
  • Guttering and Downpipes
  • Even Asbestos Water Tanks in Lofts!
  • Asbestos Containing Vinyl Floor Tiles – One of the most common items we see! – A rather novel use of Asbestos Cement

What Is The Process Of An Asbestos Inspection/Survey

If you think you’ve found asbestos on your property, the best way to confirm the presence is to have a sample taken. Following the asbestos survey and sampling, you will be advised on the safest way to deal with the item. If the fibres are disturbed, during renovation or redecoration for example, then it is near impossible to clean things such as carpets or soft furnishings and guarantee that it is safe.

Asbestos features long thin fibres that break longitudinally and the finer they become the greater chance of being able to make it through our noses filtration system and deep into our lungs. So if you do find asbestos in your property – best to not disturb them at all!

What If I Find Asbestos On My Property

If you have asbestos in your property, then do not disturb it. Asbestos only becomes dangerous when fibres are released and inhaled. If you think you have found an item in your home, then you should call us on (Cornwall) 01872 276375 or (Bristol) 01179 600791 to arrange to have a sample professionally taken to confirm the presence of fibres.