Avoiding Asbestos Exposure Whilst Doing DIY


The Law Of… Doing DIY Safely

Growing numbers of DIY tip sharing websites like Pintrest could be posing a risk of asbestos exposure to those interested, as they attempt renovations without understanding the true health and safety risks.

Asbestos illness specialist, Helen Grady, takes a look at the potential risks of asbestos exposure and provides advice to those looking to 'do it yourself'.

Why Does DIY Put People At Risk Of Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos was a building material used widely in residential, public and commercial properties up to the year 2000. If your home was built prior to the banning of all asbestos in 2000, it is likely that there is asbestos in some areas of your house.

In the workplace, there are regulations in place in order to keep workers safe. Employers and building owners are required to have plans in place that help people avoid asbestos exposure. However, in your own home, there are no regulations, leaving people free to attempt DIY that could lead to asbestos exposure. 

If you begin DIY in a home built prior to the banning of all types of asbestos, you risk disturbing asbestos. This is when asbestos is at its most dangerous as undisturbed asbestos is relatively safe. If you don't take due care when carrying out DIY, you can unwittingly release asbestos and breathe in toxic fibres.

What Are The Dangers Of Asbestos Exposure?

The biggest danger with asbestos is the fact that the fibres that cause damage are invisible to the naked eye. Once inhaled, the fibres of asbestos can cause inflammation within the lungs. It may also cause pleural thickening, asbestosis and mesothelioma. It is not possible to reverse the damage cause by asbestos on lungs and so the dangers of asbestos should be taken very seriously.

It is also important to remember that if you disturb asbestos, everyone within the vicinity is at risk of its effects. It is possible for asbestos fibres to be carried beyond where they were disturbed, as was found with many wives and children of miners working around asbestos every day.

What Can You Do To Avoid Asbestos Exposure?

It can be difficult to identify asbestos. This is mostly because when it was used as a building material, it was often used within other materials such as cement and spray coatings, meaning it isn't always visible.

The most important thing to do before you begin any DIY in the home, is to have the house surveyed by a professional. A professional survey will establish where asbestos is in the house. After the surveyor has assessed your home, they should also send off samples of suspicious substances to find out what type of asbestos it is.

If you or a surveyor discovers asbestos you should hire a professional to remove it, unless you have been trained in the maintenance of asbestos. Protective clothing and equipment must be used for the safe removal of asbestos and it must be disposed of in special facilities.

What Should I Do If I Have Experienced Asbestos Exposure?

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, whether in the past or more recently, you should inform your GP. Exposure to asbestos is not always a reason to panic. Most people do not develop life-threatening lung illnesses as a result of asbestos exposure, but telling you GP means they can be alert to any warning signs.

Seek medical advice if you have had asbestos exposure and are suffering with:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme tiredness
  • A persistent cough
  • A high temperature loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • Swollen fingertips

Helen comments:

"DIY gives people the opportunity of creating something they can enjoy and can provide a huge amount of satisfaction, plus saving costs on outside contractors."

"The risk of asbestos exposure is usually low. But a big renovation done by someone who isn't trained to spot and deal with asbestos poses a life-threatening risk."

"Property surveys might seem like time wasting and an unnecessary cost, but it could genuinely save lives. It's worth seeking quotes from multiple sources.

"If you are buying a new property, it is worth asking a surveyor to comment on any asbestos in the property so that you know exactly where it is."

"When you renovate your home and do not take the risks of asbestos seriously, you could be putting anyone living in the property at the time at risk of Mesothelioma from low-level exposure."

If you have been exposed to asbestos because of another's carelessness and go on to contract mesothelioma at a later date, you could be entitled to asbestos exposure compensation. Call one of our asbestos solicitors today for an empathetic approach to legal advice.

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