One of the big questions people ask around ACMs, even when properly concealed, is does asbestos decompose?
Before the turn of the millennium, asbestos was widely used as one of the most popular construction materials throughout the UK through a vast array of construction projects – from domestic and residential housing to commercial buildings and warehouses.
It was not until decades of mainstream use of asbestos were undertaken that the dangers to personal health from the hazardous materials were made apparent. By then, it was too late to prevent it from posing serious health risks, but not too late to ban it from further use until 1999.
Once regulations were in place around asbestos, the government created initiatives to safely protect or fully remove asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from buildings – especially when any of these buildings are scheduled for demolition or renovation work.
What is asbestos and what is an ACM?
Asbestos is natural silicate material found within rock strata. More accurately, asbestos is a set of silicates formed by thin crystalline fibres that are spun into other materials like cement, forming a robust compound material that was mainly used in construction.
These asbestos fibres are the ones that pose a serious risk when released into the breathable air through abrasion – proving to be quite fatal to humans. This can range from serious health issues to terminal cancers that cannot be treated. The fatality factor when it comes to asbestos exposure is quite high, with it taking years to decades to take full effect – and being too late to combat it once it has been discovered in the human lungs.
Does it decompose?
Silicates do not decompose – which means that asbestos will not decompose. What you do need to consider is that the material to which it is attached to (cement, vinyl, plaster etc.) certainly will give the impression that the asbestos will dissolve with it.
Sadly this is never the case as the asbestos will remain unchanged. It is not indestructible though, with the asbestos eventually breaking down at extremely high temperatures into a sand-like substance. This makes it harmless and able to be disposed of. This is by no means a viable option for getting rid of asbestos. It must be treated as something inextinguishable.
Waiting for asbestos to one day decompose is not an option you should entertain. Asbestos disposal requires burying it in a secure area and monitoring it regularly.
This work can only be carried out by a certified and professional asbestos removal company that specialise in asbestos removal services and asbestos testing. This is the only way to avoid any serious harm to those without the proper knowledge and tools to handle asbestos materials and waste.