Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made up of extremely small fibres. It was widely used in building construction materials between 1945 and 1985 but today its use is generally banned.
On average 20 tradesmen die every week from exposure to asbestos. Building contractors, plumbers, electricians and decorators are particularly at risk because they can disturb asbestos materials without realising what they are.
You are most likely to find asbestos in:
If asbestos materials are disturbed, or if they are in poor condition, they can release large numbers of needle shaped fibres which can be breathed into the lungs. These fibres lodge in the lungs and can lead to several diseases, some of which are fatal.
You can find lots of detailed information about asbestos on the Health and Safety Executive website.
Most asbestos removal work should only be attempted by a licensed contractor (although some work is 'non-licenced', depending on risk). You can learn more about asbestos removal on the Health and Safety Executive website, including a list of licensed asbestos removal contractors.
The person responsible for asbestos removal depends on the type of building, whether you own it and your tenancy agreement if you are renting.
If you're a council tenant or lessee and you're worried about asbestos, contact City of Westminster Housing.