How to identify asbestos

July, 2022

Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally in specific types of rock throughout the world. Due to its durability, fire-resistance, and relatively low cost, it has been used in the manufacture of thousands of products, particularly building materials. In the mid-20th century, asbestos was one of the most common building materials in use throughout most of the U.K.

Unfortunately, it was later revealed that asbestos poses serious respiratory health hazards to people who are exposed to even a small number of airborne fibres. These fibres can lead to conditions such as asbestosis, non-cancerous lung disease, and mesothelioma (lung cancer). Each of these conditions is incurable, eventually leading to death.

Initially, concerns around the safety of asbestos were raised towards the end of the 19th century. In the mid-1950s, one of the first links between asbestos and lung cancer was published. However, it wasn’t until 1999 when a full-ban on the use of asbestos products was enforced.

It is important you know how to identify asbestos. An estimated 13 people die from conditions linked to asbestos exposure in the U.K. every day.

How to Spot the Signs of Asbestos

It’s estimated that over 500,000 structures still contain asbestos throughout the U.K. Therefore, anybody that is aware of the possibility of asbestos within a structure must be vigilant and safeguard against exposure. 

Some of the most common signs of asbestos include:

The Age of a Building

Up until 1985, all types of asbestos could still be legally used in the U.K. They were popular and actively used to create appliances and buildings all over the country. Asbestos could be found in insulation, roofing materials, boilers, housing pipes, and even hairdryers. The HSE has guessed that all buildings constructed before the beginning of the 21st century may contain asbestos.

Asbestos was commonly used in buildings in places like:


Attic insulation was frequently make using asbestos between the 1920s and the 1980s. Therefore, if your attic contains insulated materials that you suspect were installed during this period, we recommend having the materials asbestos tested before handling them.

Interior Wall Paint 

Asbestos was a popular ingredient in wall paints up until the 1990s.


In the past, asbestos ceilings were a common feature of many homes in the form of spray-on paint of ceiling tiles.

Wood Stoves and Fireplaces

Any fire-resistant materials present in older houses is likely to contain asbestos. Therefore, we recommend testing paper or cement sheets found on fireplace interiors or wooden stoves.

Window Putty

It wasn’t uncommon to produce fire-resistant window putty using asbestos materials.


Asbestos was used as part of gaskets, clutches, and brake pad production. For this reason, OSHA has recommended taking precautionary measures before replacing any brake pads.

Garden Sheds and Garages 

In older garages and sheds, asbestos roof panels and roof tiles are a common feature.


The majority of drywall areas in homes are asbestos-free unless they have been fire-protection rated. Asbestos drywall was more prevalent in commercial buildings. That said, if your house was renovated prior to 1980, the drywall edging or texture compound might contain asbestos.

Floor Tiles and Carpet Underlay

Occasionally, carpet underlay is found to contain asbestos. This includes vinyl floor tiling and floor tile fixing glue.

Home Siding

In the past, siding shingles and siding materials were sometimes reinforced using asbestos to bolster their strength.

Water Heaters

Water heater insulation is sometimes found to contain asbestos. This is especially true of any insulating blankets or cloths. 

Air Conditioning or Heating Ducts

Insulation was one of the most popular uses for asbestos. Therefore, in older buildings, the A.C. and heating systems may contain asbestos.

Asbestos Cement Pipes

Gas and sewage pipes were sometimes built with asbestos. These are particularly dangerous as they deteriorate with time and asbestos fibres can be released into the pipelines.

Boiler and Pipe Insulation

Piping systems that feed furnaces and boilers sometimes contain asbestos, with some boilers being coated in asbestos for insulation. If you think that you may have asbestos in your home or work building, we recommend that you purchase a home testing kit or hire a qualified professional to run tests. It really could save lives if you identify and remove all hazardous materials containing asbestos

Alternatively, there are several asbestos testing kits available on the market. The manufacturer of these kits provides instructions to show how homeowners can safely extract some samples for a lab to test. These samples are sent back to the manufacturer, and a specialist testing laboratory will test them and provide results within a few weeks.

How is Asbestos Removed?

When you hire a professional asbestos removal company, they use a HEPA vacuum, specialised equipment, and wet mopping techniques to eliminate all asbestos materials present. You’ll notice that they wear specialised PPE and respirators throughout the removal process. So severe is the risk of cross-contamination; these materials are destroyed after each use. 

Never take the removal of asbestos into your own hands and try to hoover broken asbestos materials or sweep them using a dustpan and brush. As soon as you disturb any materials, asbestos fibres will be released into the air, posing a hazard to the health of you and your family.

We hope you found all the information on asbestos useful in this guide. Please don’t forget, asbestos is a potentially deadly material, always proceed with caution and contact professionals to carry out safety inspections and asbestos removal procedures.



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