Where does asbestos come from

Identify asbestos and take the right action

Asbestos is difficult to identify at first glance, but some evidence can be used to find out whether asbestos was used as a building material in construction. You can read here which indications these are and when a renovation makes sense.

Identify asbestos and take the right action
Identify asbestos and take the right action

To recognize asbestos you need a trained eye. The building material, which is hazardous to health, gives off neither odor nor radiation. Until 1993, asbestos was the most important material used in construction due to its many practical properties. The term describes a group of silicate minerals. These impress with their chemical resistance, insensitivity to heat and low flammability. Asbestos is also easy to process with other materials, so it has been used in a wide variety of products such as building panels, roof tiles and gaskets.

Health effects of asbestos

It has been known for several decades that asbestos poses a health hazard. According to the GHS regulation (“Globally harmonized system for the classification and labeling of chemicals”) it was even classified as a carcinogen in group 1A of carcinogenic substances. Asbestos is also linked to lung cancer, shortness of breath, asthma and what is known as asbetosis, a hardening and scarring of the lung tissue like connective tissue that makes breathing difficult. Because of this existing health risk, the first protective regulations were implemented as early as the 1970s. In 1993, asbestos was completely banned in Germany. It has been in force across the EU since 2005.

Good to know: Only intensive work on materials containing asbestos leads to health problems. So if you find out that asbestos has been used in your house, you don't have to renovate the entire house immediately.

Detect asbestos based on the year of construction

If you are unsure whether your house contains asbestos, you should consider the year of construction. If your house was built between 1930 and 1993 and has not been renovated since then, it is very likely that the building material was used, for example, on the roof, on the facade or on other parts of the house.

Good to know: A distinction is made between asbestos cement and spray asbestos. Sprayed asbestos was banned in West Germany as early as 1979 and is considered to be one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos. In contrast to asbestos cement, even the smallest vibrations are enough to release the harmful fibers. In the case of asbestos cement, the fibers are only released if the cement has been exposed to mechanical or thermal influences.

Identify asbestos by appearance and bonding

Asbestos is usually gray or greenish-gray in color and has a fibrous structure. However, in order to be able to recognize asbestos with the naked eye, you usually need specialist knowledge. Because the dangerous building material is usually processed in a firmly bound form with other building materials such as cement and is then difficult to identify. How dangerous the fabric really is depends mainly on the type of binding. There are three different types:

  • weakly bound asbestos

Weakly bound asbestos is particularly dangerous for humans. The asbestos content is usually over 60 percent, which is much higher than that of other asbestos products. For example, spray asbestos belongs to the weakly bound asbestos. As a soft asbestos product, it was mainly used as a fire protection compound for steel frame structures. So check older insulation, insulation, fire dampers and seals.

In its pure form, the building material can be found, for example, as asbestos cord for sealing chimneys or stoves or as fireproof fillers. Since the material is similarly fibrous as the weakly bound asbestos, it is considered almost as dangerous.

The most harmless of the three types is the strongly bound asbestos. This occurs mainly in roof coverings, ceiling tiles or wall cladding. The asbestos fibers do not escape as quickly as with weakly bound asbestos.

Identify asbestos by use

Since asbestos was one of the most common building materials, it can be found in a whole range of different products. It is mainly found in roof coverings (asbestos cement panels), but it is also used in floor coverings, pipes or wall cladding. Other areas of application include synthetic slate, corrugated fiber cement panels, sewage pipes and ventilation pipes, night storage heaters, and even old electrical appliances such as stoves, ovens, toasters and irons contain the material.

Detect asbestos in night storage heaters

Asbestos is also used in night storage heaters that were installed before 1978. It should serve as heat protection in several components such as insulator, core carrier plate, flange seals and in insulation panels. In order to be able to see whether your night storage heater is contaminated with asbestos, you have to compare the device type with the corresponding asbestos lists. The device type can usually be read from the type plate, which is located on the lower edge or on the side of the night storage heater. The manufacturers usually provide information about asbestos pollution in their night storage heaters.

If you suspect asbestos, hire a specialist

If you suspect you should seek advice from a professional. They can determine asbestos contamination better than a layperson. The specialist takes a material sample from components that appear suspicious, which is then examined in the laboratory. Such sampling is carried out, for example, by means of an adhesive or contact sample and may only be carried out by a trained specialist.

If the sample shows evidence of asbestos, you have to think about a remediation. However, this is not urgently necessary in all cases. For example, there is no general renovation requirement for weakly bound asbestos applications indoors, because the renovation would release significantly more fibers than the installed product. A certified asbestos expert can find out to what extent refurbishment makes sense.

In the event that renovation is unavoidable, only specialist companies are allowed to carry out this work.

Renovation costs

The costs for asbestos disposal and subsequent remediation cannot be determined as a flat rate. For the mere expansion, you can expect around 30 to 40 euros per square meter. If you want to renovate a roof with insulation, you have to reckon with more costs, because the fine fibers of the asbestos covering are deposited in the insulation, so that it also has to be renovated. In addition to the pure disposal costs, there are also travel costs for the company, scaffolding rental, packaging costs, working hours, disposal costs and a so-called emergency roof cover in the roof area, as well as the costs for new material. In any case, calculate with several thousand euros.

Disposal of asbestos

In order to be able to dispose of asbestos, you need special safety training, which is subject to state testing. Special disposal companies are usually commissioned to do this, come with breathing masks and the corresponding equipment and pack all asbestos-containing products in airtight film.