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Why was Asbestos So Popular in Construction?
It sounds absurd to us now, in the full knowledge of the harm asbestos can do, to think that anyone would have willingly chosen to use it in the manufacture and creation of household items. Yet we must remember that the negative effects of asbestos were completely unknown to the builders, plumbers, electricians and other workmen of yesteryear, who used it with a zeal seldom seen elsewhere in the construction sector.
So what was it about asbestos that made it so irresistible? And are there any situations nowadays in which it can still play a useful role? Here are some of the main reasons why, despite the health hazards, asbestos won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Asbestos is So Popular Because…
- Asbestos is heat resistant
It should be obvious to anyone that a building material which doesn’t catch fire easily is going to be a popular choice. Asbestos can withstand some pretty high temperatures, and even after a blazing house fire you’ll often find a mix of unburnt and partly burnt debris. This made it a safe choice for anyone constructing houses where, for the first time, gas would be a mains connection – not to mention anyone who’d survived the Blitz and knew first hand how devastating the fires following raids could be.
- It’s an effective insulator
Another appealing property of asbestos was that it makes a brilliant insulation material. Again, its ability to withstand heat also works to withstand cold – so it was put into pretty much every wall or roof cavity going, in order to make houses as warm and cosy as possible.
- It’s water-resistant
Asbestos is commonly found in roof tiles and felting, especially on garages – which isn’t surprising when you realise that it’s naturally water-resistant, and therefore perfect for keeping the rain from damaging your car, tools or other belongings.
- It makes other materials stronger
When mixed with a variety of other materials, including cement, cloth and plastic, asbestos acts as a strengthening ingredient, providing additional rigidity and reliability. Again, you can understand why this was valuable in construction, as reinforced products had a better reputation and lifespan. Popular items made from materials reinforced with asbestos included toilet cisterns, car brake pads. and old vinyl floor tiles.
- It is naturally occuring
People are often puzzled to realise that asbestos is not a man-made product – it’s the name given to a group of naturally-occuring silicate minerals. The minerals are found in deposits all over the world, and because they do appear quite freely throughout the world (over 75% of the world’s crust contains asbestos), they were relatively cheap and easy to exploit. This made asbestos an appealing material for many industrial nations in the 1800s.
So is there any need for asbestos in the modern world?
It’s fairly safe to say that a world without asbestos (certainly within homes and businesses) would be a much better, not to mention safer and healthier, place. But we’re a long way off that – not least because many poorer or more heavily industrialised nations around the world still actively produce and use products containing asbestos, for all the reasons listed above.
Here in the UK, the ban on asbestos has meant that since 1999, no products containing it have been allowed to be used in any capacity. But of course, lots of homes still have asbestos-based products and materials in them – and that’s not always a problem.
Asbestos that is hidden away, such as in lofts and wall cavities, can generally remain where it is – asbestos that has been in place for a substantial amount of time, undisturbed, poses such a small risk it’s not worth dealing with. Unless you invest in some major refurbishment, the asbestos can be left in situ indefinitely, doing its best to keep your house warm and well insulated.
However, if the asbestos is in a place where people can be exposed to it – such as bathroom and kitchen furniture and in the floors, walls or ceilings of interior rooms, it needs to be removed.
Additionally, any asbestos which is in a degraded, damaged condition, or which has been recently disturbed, needs to be removed. This is because it’s much easier for the microscopic fibres to be released into the air and breathed in by unsuspecting inhabitants.
If your asbestos is visible from inside your house, or shows any signs of damage or degradation (whether inside or out), then call in the asbestos experts, JS Removals are on hand to offer fast, reliable advice and support around the removal of asbestos in your home or business, and have the correct equipment and protective gear to make sure we keep ourselves and you safe throughout the whole process.
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