Asbestos refers to different minerals that were used in building materials but are now banned. When asbestos-containing materials are moved or disturbed, this can release fibres that are damaging to health if inhaled.
Why asbestos was used
Asbestos was used in building materials for strengthening, insulation and fire-resistant purposes until the mid 1980s. It was banned in 1999.
Inhaling asbestos fibres increases the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. You could increase the risk of getting this type of disease if you:
- work on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials
- inhale levels of asbestos fibres many hundreds of times higher than environmental levels
It can be a long time before disease symptoms appear. Disease symptoms can appear20 or 30 years after exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos in your home
You might find asbestos in some of areas of your home including:
- eaves, soffits, gutters and rainwater fall pipes
- garage and shed roofs
- linings for walls, ceilings and doors
- insulation panels in some storage heaters
- central heating and boiler flues
- floor tiles
- decorative finishes
Identifying asbestos in your home
It can be difficult to identify asbestos in your home. You might need to employ a surveyor or skilled contractor who can take a sample or survey the premises.
If you're concerned about asbestos in your home:
- leave the asbestos untouched and avoid releasing asbestos fibre in the air
- don't put drawing pins, screws or nails in asbestos or apply adhesive tape as this could release asbestos fibres in the air
- don't sand, drill or saw asbestos materials
- always get professional advice before removing asbestos materials
- ask a licensed contractor to remove asbestos lagging, spray coatings or insulation board as they can safely remove these materials
- ask a skilled contractor who is insured to remove unlicensed asbestos cement or asbestos vinyl floor tiles
Disposing of asbestos
You must not put asbestos in household waste or recycling collections. Only sites licensed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency can accept asbestos waste.
You may be able to employ a contractor to collect asbestos from you. They need to be a licensed asbestos removal contractor. Ask the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) for a list of asbestos removal contractors.
If you are a homeowner not acting for commercial gain, you can arrange asbestos disposal with a licensed hazardous waste disposal site. They should double bag or wrap asbestos in 1000 gauge polythene.
Homeowners concerned about asbestos
If you're concerned about asbestos in your home or need advice, contact the local council.
You can also contact the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)'s hazardous waste unit:
- telephone 028 9056 9710
Housing Executive tenants
If you're a Housing Executive tenant concerned about asbestos in your home or need further advice, contact:
Tenants in private rented accommodation
If you're a tenant in private rented property concerned about asbestos in your home, contact your landlord or letting agency.