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Finding and identifying

Types of asbestos

The three main types of asbestos are white, blue and brown, used mainly in the production of asbestos cement sheeting and piping. Asbestos was also used in the manufacture of vinyl floor tiles, electrical components, brake linings and disc pads. When disturbed, it produces a dust that contains asbestos fibres. Fibres breathed into the lungs can cause a range of health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma

Asbestos can be found in a number of buildings, including homes, workplaces and community buildings such as church halls, schools, civic buildings and public spaces. Asbestos can also be found in cement products and soil, as both friable and non-friable asbestos (bonded asbestos).

As long as non-friable asbestos is undisturbed and remains in a good condition, the risk of any asbestos fibres being released into the air is low. Therefore, it is considered to be a low risk to health for people who are in contact with it. However, when non-friable asbestos products are damaged or badly weathered (for example by hail damage) the asbestos may become friable.

You can find the most likely places where asbestos is used in our interactive Find and Identify Asbestos tool .

Concerns about asbestos in community spaces should be discussed with the owner or the manager of the building. If you want to report your concerns you can find out more information about who to contact, and who can help by consulting the 'Who should I call?' tool.

Concerns about asbestos removal work being carried out near you.

When the removal of asbestos is required in a workplace, legal duties apply under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

This includes work by builders and tradespersons working in a domestic home. For large quantities of asbestos (more than 10 square metres) or any quantity of friable asbestos the removal must be done by a licensed asbestos removalist. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 also apply legal obligations, in relation to asbestos removal in a workplace, for transport and disposal of asbestos waste.

Homeowners need to follow reasonable precautions when dealing with asbestos including the transport and disposal of asbestos.

If you have concerns that asbestos removal work is being carried out in a non-compliant or unsafe way, you should report this – see Find out who to call.

Asbestos test

You can't tell if a material contains asbestos just by looking at it. Only scientific testing of a sample can confirm this.

An asbestos sample must be tested by an asbestos laboratory approved by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA).

A competent person should collect the sample for you. People that can do this are professional occupational hygienists, licensed asbestos removalists or a NATA accredited asbestos laboratory.

Reviewed 15 September 2021

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