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When Was Asbestos Banned in the UK?

Updated: May 1

Asbestos being removed from roof

The supply and use of all types of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, although the use of blue and brown asbestos was originally banned in 1985 due to the introduction of The Asbestos Products Safety Regulations 1985.


 

In this Article:



 

When did Asbestos Stop Being Used in UK houses?


Houses built before 1985 are very unlikely to contain asbestos. In November 1999 the UK banned the use and import of all types of asbestos products, this was many years after the first noted asbestos related tumour being detected in 1920. The first ban on Asbestos was issued in 1985 and only applied to the 2 most dangerous forms of asbestos blue (Crocidolite) and brown (Amosite).


 

What does Asbestos Look Like?


Appearance: Asbestos fibres are microscopic and not visible to the naked eye. However, when asbestos is used as a raw fibre, it often looks like a fluffy, fibrous mat that can vary in colour, including white, blue, brown, or Grey.


Texture: In some forms, it may appear soft and friable (easily crumbled by hand), while in others, like asbestos cement, it's hard and rigid.


Common Forms:

  • Loose-fill asbestos: Resembles loose, fluffy insulation material.

  • Asbestos insulation boards: Dense, rigid boards used for fire protection, thermal insulation, and partitioning.

  • Asbestos cement products: Typically found in sheets or pipes, with a hard and brittle texture.

  • Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls, and beams/columns: May have a rough, lumpy texture, with a whitish appearance.



 

What does Asbestos do to Humans?


When asbestos is inhaled the fibres can become lodged inside the tiny air sacks inside your lungs which are responsible for absorbing oxygen. When stuck the fibres can cause inflammation and scar tissue to form, making the lungs stiff and causing difficulty breathing.


  • Mesothelioma - A cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and lower digestive tract.

  • Asbestosis - Serious scarring of the lungs that can cause severe difficulty breathing.

  • Pleural Thickening - Swelling of the lining of the lungs resulting in chest and fluid build up around the lungs.

  • Lung Cancer - A tumour that blocks the airways in the lungs which can form many years after exposure.


 

How many People Die from Asbestosis each year?


An estimated 5,000 people die annually from asbestos-related illnesses, which equates to about 13 deaths per day.


a graph showing deaths relating to asbestos related illness

Note that data collected after 2020 may have been impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic, potentially affecting its accuracy compared to earlier data.


 

Where is Asbestos Found?


Asbestos was commonly used in many building materials before its risks were known, because of this it exists almost entirely in buildings built before 1999.


  • Residential Buildings: Widespread use in a large number of homes.

  • Commercial Buildings: Common in many older office buildings, shops, and warehouses.

  • Schools and Public Buildings: Frequently found due to the age of many such buildings.

  • Industrial Sites: Regularly used for insulation and fireproofing in factories and plants.

  • Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities: Often used for fireproofing and insulation.

  • Military Bases and Facilities: Extensively used, particularly in older installations.

  • Railroads and Railway Buildings: Common in older rail infrastructure and rolling stock.

  • Automotive Repair Facilities: Presence in older vehicle parts like brakes and clutches.

  • Ships and Maritime Structures: Widely used in older ships for insulation and fireproofing.

  • Aircraft and Aerospace Facilities: Used in older aircraft and related facilities.

  • Historical Buildings and Monuments: Variable, depending on the age and restoration history.

  • Underground Infrastructure: Less widespread but present in older pipe insulation.


Here are some materials which may contain asbestos if manufactured earlier than 1999.

Insulation

Flooring and Ceiling Materials

Roofing and Siding

Textured Paint

Heat-Resistant Fabrics

Plaster and Boarding

Pipe and Furnace Insulation

Cement Sheets, Millboard and Paper

Automotive Parts

Gaskets

Electrical Components

Artificial ashes in Gas Fireplaces

Asbestos is still the cause of many deaths every year, even though its use has been mostly stopped. People are still becoming sick from being around asbestos a long time ago and diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis are not yet uncommon.


 

Frequently Asked Questions


How Quickly can Asbestos Affect you?

How Many Houses in the UK still have Asbestos?

How Dangerous is One Time Exposure to Asbestos?

What is the Most Common type of Asbestos?

What PPE do I Need to Remove Asbestos?

Would a House Built in 1985 still have Asbestos?

 
a link to a asbestos awareness course
a link to a asbestos awareness for architects and designers course
 

Sources:

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