Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Asbestos and Man-made Mineral Fibres in Buildings: Practical Guidance



Key Points

1: Introduction
2: What are asbestos and man-made mineral fibres?
3: Where are these materials used?
4: What are the risks to health?
5: How to identify and assess materials containing mineral fibres
6: How to manage fibrous materials in buildings
7: Advice on problems involving asbestos
8: Disposal of asbestos waste
9: Common questions and answers
10: Bibliography

Annex 1: Use, content and characteristics of asbestos products
Annex 2: Relevant legislation
Annex 3: Sampling asbestos materials
Annex 4: Asbestos assessment charts
Annex 5: Model asbestos survey report form
Annex 6: Asbestos in non-traditional housing

Colour plates

Key points

This document is intended for local authorities, to provide guidance on the management of asbestos and other fibrous materials in buildings. Other people who are responsible for managing buildings may find the document useful, but those who need to manage asbestos in workplaces or as part of a work activity should seek further guidance from the Health and Safety Executive. The relevant sections should be read for detailed advice, but the key points to remember are as follows:


  • Asbestos was used widely in building materials, insulation and household products between the 1900s and the mid 1970s. Peak usage occurred in the 1960s to early 1970s.
  • Asbestos fibres derived from natural and man-made sources are found throughout the environment. Hence, everyone is exposed to a very low level of asbestos fibres every day.
  • Higher fibre levels may occur in buildings which contain asbestos. However, the risks posed by exposures to such levels are considered to be very small indeed provided the materials are undamaged, are not disturbed, and are managed to ensure that they remain so.
  • An isolated accidental exposure to asbestos fibres of short duration is extremely unlikely to result in the development of an asbestos-related disease.

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