AV Asbestos have prepared three short articles that are designed to give some background information about asbestos, its dangers, and the law:

What is asbestos? an article that answers the questions: What is asbestos made of? Where does it come from? This also includes a short history of the use of asbestos.

Health and asbestos an article about the commonest adverse effects on human health due to contact with asbestos.

UK law and asbestos an article on the law affecting asbestos containing materials (ACMs). It concentrates on who is a 'duty holder' and what are their responsibilities under UK law regarding asbestos.

In addition, the answers to several FAQs are given below.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

This is a list of questions that are frequently asked by people when talking to us. These FAQs have been included to help with background information, however, you are still welcome to call our asbestos helpline on 0845 833 2660 (local-rate number, 09:00 – 17:00) to find out more about asbestos.

The import and manufacture of asbestos did not finally cease until 1999, when chrysotile (white) asbestos was banned.

Any property built during 1999 or before should thus be inspected for asbestos containing materials (ACMs). There is a statutory obligation to inspect non-domestic buildings under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012).

This also includes the common areas of blocks of flats and also buy-to-let properties that are rented out with the owner retaining responsibility for maintenance. This link gives more on the UK law regarding asbestos.

If you plan to undertake major refurbishment (knocking through walls or ceilings for instance) or demolition, then you will need a demolition or refurbishment survey.

If you are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the building, and you would arrange for builders, plumbers, IT contractors, electricians, etc. to carry out any tasks within it, then you are the ‘duty holder’ with responsibilities under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
The survey undertaken to understand a – typically non-domestic – property's overall asbestos risk is the management survey, during which surveyors seek to identify the location, type, and condition of any asbestos containing materials (ACMs) within the site. When surveyors are suspicious that materials contain asbestos, and access to it is possible without damaging the surrounding structure, samples are taken and tested in a laboratory. However, often surveyors will be quite sure that materials contain asbestos and designate them as such without recourse to sampling. If a piece of material's status is unknown, and the surrounding construction would have to be damaged to take a sample, then it is ‘presumed’ to contain asbestos; sampling is then deferred until it is demolished or refurbished (see below). The reports generated from a management survey will form the basis of the duty holder’s legally required asbestos risk analysis and documentation.

Because management surveys are not required to be destructive and therefore may not give a complete view of the site's ACMs, when planning to undertake demolition or major refurbishment (knocking through walls or ceilings for instance), and there are areas that have not been surveyed, then you will need a refurbishment or demolition survey. Should surveying at this stage prove negative, then any works may be undertaken without worrying about ACMs. This stage may also be an important part of calculating the actual volume of ACMs that require specialist removal and disposal; and therefore their effect on the cost of the project.

Not all asbestos is high risk. Most asbestos, if in good condition and not likely to be easily damaged, can be left in place and subjected to a management regime.

Some asbestos will not be in good condition and be of a type that is easily friable (it releases fibres easily). This may have to be removed under strict conditions by a licensed asbestos removal contractor.

Most asbestos in a building will carry a very low risk; provided this is properly managed, it may be safely left in place.

If you have any doubt, then a qualified asbestos surveyor will be able to assess the situation for you.

Asbestos is a family of mineral rocks that have a long, thin fibrous crystals structure. Asbestos bearing rocks were crushed to yield raw fibres. When added to other building materials, these fibres gave the resulting amalgamation additional strength and heat resistance. Unfortunately, inhaling asbestos damages the lungs. It can also cause skin problems. Therefore, in most western countries its use has been banned. Read more about asbestos or read more about the health implications of asbestos.
If the property was built after 1999, then you can be reasonably sure it is asbestos-free. There is a caveat that to be absolutely sure it should not contain any informally reclaimed building materials such as doors, heating equipment, etc. Recycled materials such as insulation from reputable suppliers should be fine.