What Year Was White Asbestos Banned in the UK?
You might be aware that asbestos is no longer used in the UK, but many people are surprised to learn just how recently it was banned. While some forms of asbestos, notably crocidolite and amosite, were banned in 1985, white asbestos continued to be used for some time after this.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1999 that the importation, manufacture, and use of white asbestos was banned in the UK. Due to this, it’s highly likely that any buildings that were constructed prior to 2000 will contain some form of asbestos.
Is White Asbestos Dangerous?
Yes. It was originally believed that white asbestos was not as dangerous as other types of asbestos such as crocidolite and amosite. While experts do maintain that other types of asbestos pose more of a danger than white asbestos, it is still a very harmful substance.
Chrysotile (white asbestos) wasn’t banned until some time after crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos) precisely because it wasn’t believed to be as dangerous. This is due to a significant difference in the fibres that make up asbestos.
Blue and brown asbestos consists of short, sharp fibres that can penetrate through lung tissue and are difficult to breathe out. In contrast, white asbestos is made up of relatively soft and flexible fibres. Although these may be less likely to penetrate through body tissue, such as the lungs, this doesn’t detract from the fact that all types of asbestos, including white asbestos, are extremely dangerous.
Is White Asbestos Still Present in Buildings?
Yes. When asbestos was banned, the ‘new use’ of the material was prohibited. This means that it could no longer be used to produce new products or in the construction of new buildings (or the maintenance of existing structures). However, the law did not require asbestos to be removed from commercial or residential buildings.
As a result, a large number of properties in the UK still contain asbestos. Those built prior to 1985 are likely to contain white, blue and/or brown asbestos, while those erected between 1985-1999 are likely to contain white asbestos.
Should White Asbestos Be Removed?
Asbestos is most dangerous when it is disturbed because tiny fibrous particles are released into the air and can be breathed in. If you decide to remove white asbestos from a property you own, it’s essential to hire licenced contractors to complete the work.