Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

The most common way for Asbestos fibres to enter the body is through inhalation/breathing. An Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) is not generally considered to be harmful unless it is releasing dust or fibres into the atmosphere, at that point fibres can be easily inhaled or ingested.

Some Asbestos fibres get caught by the human defence mechanism ie the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, these can be removed through coughing. Other Asbestos fibres, due to their microscopic size, pass deep into the lungs, or if swallowed, into the digestive tract. Once they are trapped in the body, the fibres can cause very serious health problems.

A friable Asbestos Containing Material is the most dangerous. Friable means easily crumbled by hand, therefore creating high levels of fibre release into the atmosphere. Sprayed on Asbestos insulation is highly friable, whereas an Asbestos floor tile is not.

Damage and deterioration through aging will increase the friability of an Asbestos Containing Material. Anything that disturbs an ACM can break the material down making fibre release more likely.

The human body cannot breakdown or absorb Asbestos fibres and after a period of time, inhaled fibres can cause disease. The 3 most common Asbestos related diseases are:

  • Asbestosis
  • Lung Cancer
  • Mesothelioma

There are 3 factors that determine your likelihood of developing an Asbestos related disease:

  • The volume and duration of exposure
  • Whether or not you smoke
  • Your age at the time of exposure

How Can I Tell if Asbestos is Present in my Building?

If your non-domestic property was constructed before the year 2000, there is a strong possibility that it contains Asbestos Containing Materials. The only way you can tell if Asbestos is present in a building is to commission an Asbestos Management Survey.

Your Asbestos Surveyor should be a properly trained, competent professional. Small samples of suspected ACMs will be taken during the Survey then analysed in a UKAS accredited laboratory. The laboratory analysis will confirm if the sample contains Asbestos or not. The bulk analysis results will form part of the Asbestos Management Survey Report.

If you are planning a refurbishment, structural alteration or the ultimate demolition of your pre-2000 built property, you will need to commission a Pre-Refurbishment/Demolition Asbestos Survey. This is a more intrusive survey than a Management Survey and is intended to locate ACMs included within the fabric of the building.


Although Asbestos contains many good qualities (i.e. it is a good electrical insulator, strong, chemically inert, good fire and sound/fire insulator etc.), the health effects associated with exposure to asbestos fibres can be fatal.

Posted by: Tom Price, Head of Asbestos Management Services.

If your non-domestic building was constructed prior to 2000, you are required to take action to identify ACMs within your building. For further details, please contact Tom Price at [email protected] or 01332 668877.