Together we will beat cancer

Donate

Possible asbestos in home has been disturbed, not realised

31 May 2019 23:38

We have artex ceilings in the hallway and under stairs. Survey report on house said asbestos may be present. For some reason, we never followed it up. The ceiling under the stairs has been disturbed from accidental knocks to it and where it was partially broken already, it crumbled more because of these knocks. I remember once breaking a part of it away, and it crumbling, before thinking I should stop, as it would be a pain to re-plaster. We even drilled into the ceiling to install a smoke alarm once. 

A recent conversation made me think I should check the report on the house, which I have tonight. It's an old Victorian house, and that is when I saw again that there is a risk if asbestos in these ceilings. We will be getting an asbestos specialist in immediately to find out for sure. We have lived here for a year and a half. The ceiling was disturbed between a year and 6 months ago. 

I know all might be ok, and only the specialist will be able to tell and then the GP can provide further medical advice, but I am now quite worried and I am just looking for some reassurance. If it is asbestos and we have well and truly breathed it in on two occasions, and then lived in it for a further 6 months - year, is this length of exposure a severe risk or low risk? I have tried searching for answers on how long the exposure has to be before it is harmful, but have only got vague responses of 'many years', but maybe it's not known. If anyone does know from experience or knowledge, I'd be very grateful for your thoughts.

Thank you.

Possible asbestos in home has been disturbed, not realised

1 Jun 2019 01:03 in response to Orangelime

Hi Orangelime. Welcome to the forum.

I'm not a doctor nor am I an expert on asbestos. However, this question pops up regularly on this forum. 

The asbestos in Artex was Chrysotile, or white asbestos, and it made up about 2% of the mix. Whilst white asbestos cannot be called "safe", it is definitely the least hazardous form.  Furthermore the body will naturally clear out a small number of white asbestos fibres over time.  The low concentration of asbestos means that the number of fibres released will be quite low if you cut or drill it, with many fibres remaining trapped in the other 98% of material that fell to the floor and got swept up. 

You asked about the risk to your family.  Perhaps not surprisingly, there are no figures for the number of people who have died due to exposure to asbestos in decorative products.  However in 2016 there were 2,197 male deaths and 398 female deaths from mesothelioma. I hate to use gender stereotyping, but I suspect that few of those women were exposed at work, which means they must have been exposed to asbestos elsewhere. In the home, perhaps?  Now 398 sounds a lot, but to put it in context, 3500 people die in the home each year from simple accidents; 1800 die each year in road accidents; 1500 die from accidental poisoning; 1500 die each year from falling in the home; 5-10 die each year putting on their socks.  

So, although you're kicking yourself that you disturbed the material, you have done what most other householders (including me!) have done at some time - disturbed the Artex in the ceiling and possibly breathed in the fibres. But the extra risk to your family appears to be minimal and definitely nothing to panic about. It most certainly isn't a death warrant that will be hanging over everyone's head for years to come. You're getting expert advice on what to do next, but maybe sealing the damaged areas and being more asbestos aware is all that you'll need to do. Almost certainly removing the Artex would be more dangerous than leaving it in place and keeping it properly sealed. 

I'll also add one further point. Smoking and asbestos are a lethal combination. If you or any of your family are smokers, then now might be a good time to quit. 

So I guess the take home message is Don't Panic. 

Possible asbestos in home has been disturbed, not realised

1 Jun 2019 09:52 in response to telemando

Thank you for this. Really appreciate you replying. I do feel reassured now! 

Possible asbestos in home has been disturbed, not realised

1 Jun 2019 10:03 in response to Orangelime

Glad to help.  I live in a home built in the early 1980s with Artex ceilings. For a long time I was unaware of any danger, so I drilled holes etc, so when I realised there might be a problem, I researched around the topic and found out most of what I told you.

My town is a "dormitory" town for the nearby big city, and most housing was built around that time. I've been looking for reports of asbestosis among the residents and found none.  

I'd be really interested to hear what results and guidance you get from your specialist.  Please would you share with us?