What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a fibrous, mineral material which is extremely hazardous when the fibers become airborne and are inhaled, because these fibers adhere to the lining of the lungs, and can cause cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos fibers are very fine and the most dangerous ones are the ones you cannot see with the naked eye, because they can penetrate the deepest areas of the lungs.
You may think you are safe from these substances in your own home but at one time it was quite popular to choose asbestos tiles as a form of flooring. Asbestos has good insulating and fire resisting properties and to this day you can actually find old asbestos floor tiles which have been hidden under carpeting for instance. While they remain undisturbed and in good condition, they are safe and it is legal for them to remain there but the problem comes when you want to remodel your home or lay down a fresh floor or the tiles are no longer in good condition.
If you are in an older house then it is a legal requirement that you need to consider whether your floor tiles contain asbestos before you start to remove them or replace them or do work that could cause asbestos fibers to be released into the air. If you suspect that your floor tiles contain asbestos, you will need to call in a trained and registered contractor who is legally able to remove and safely dispose of the asbestos material.
If you suspect that your floor tiles contain asbestos, then it is also possible that other areas of your house contain asbestos too.
You can find it in fuse boxes; it would be behind the actual fuse. Textiles and composites made of asbestos were also around at the same time as asbestos tiles were. It could also be found in old heat resistant gloves and fire blankets. Bath panels, window sills, toilet seats and cisterns may also contain asbestos composites. Asbestos paper was actually used inside metal cladding and for lining under tiles.
What do These Look Like?
These materials which contain asbestos are not really that distinctive from what is used nowadays, this includes asbestos tiles. It is recommended that you look for a trade name, if that cannot be found then inquire with the previous homeowners as to how long they have had certain thing or how long ago certain materials were installed in the home. If you do find a trade name, you can easily look it up online and receive further information on it.
How Dangerous is it To Work With These Materials?
Working with any kind of material that contains any type of asbestos is very dangerous. That being said, there are tasks with certain materials that can be carried out by workers who are non-licensed yet appropriately trained.
Normally, work on certain material is not necessarily notifiable; the exception would be if the materials are not in good condition. Another exception would be if the work will most likely cause significant deterioration and breakup of the material, notification in this case would be required.