Where it was once one of the most popular materials in construction for its low cost and its useful properties, asbestos is now a substance that causes veritable panic. Known to be a carcinogen and no longer legal to use in building-work, discovering that there is some of this material present in your business premises can be a real concern. However, the issue is not as black-and-white as you might imagine. While asbestos removal is certainly advisable, the situation is not necessarily dire as it currently stands. Here's what you need to know.
Dust & Damage
Asbestos is dangerous largely when it is disturbed or damaged. When either of these things happens, dust and debris are released from within the asbestos—and it's these things which are carcinogenic and harmful to health. As such, if the asbestos you've discovered is damaged, it is something to be removed immediately. If it is completely intact, you don't need to rush to battle stations just yet. It is not actively harming you or anybody else in the building.
As previously mentioned, you should still be thinking about having your asbestos removed at some stage even if it is still intact. It is not an especially sturdy substance and may be damaged in an everyday accident—or exacerbate the danger of a fire, storm or flood situation, rendering the building much more harmful for emergency services and repair workers to enter. Because of this, you should consider any intact asbestos in your building a dormant risk to be dealt with in the near future.
There are a wide variety of different types of asbestos, many of which require different strategies for removal. The most important distinction to make is between friable and non-friable asbestos—not only because they require different solutions, but also because the contractors you hire to remove them will need different qualifications. You may need an expert to help you decide which form of asbestos you have. In short, however, friable asbestos is easier to damage and release dust from. Non-firable asbestos is stronger and the asbestos is wound into the material in a different way, rendering the risk of it releasing dangerous dust and debris during removal much lower.
Whatever the condition of the asbestos you've discovered, it may be most sensible simply to invite an expert to take a look at it straight away. You need not commit to removal immediately if the expert doesn't feel it's necessary, but at least then you'll know exactly what type and category you're dealing with, and begin to form a plan for when you will have it removed.