Derived from the Greek word for ‘’unquenchable’’, asbestos is a natural material and has been used since 2500 BC in winding sheets, pottery and various other applications. It can be found in tiles, false ceilings, roofs, cement drain pipes, panels, partitions, insulation boards, etc.
Asbestos is considered to be a lethal product in France and all use and manufacture of asbestos based materials has been forbidden since 1997, but nevertheless remains widespread in buildings due to its ability to resist corrosion and sustain high temperatures without deterioration.
In the French property purchasing procedure, it is required by law that an inspection of the property is made prior to the signing of any contracts to ascertain the presence of asbestos. This law applies to all properties built before the 1st of July 1997 and must be carried out by a registered, qualified surveying company who will then need to provide a certificate and a report. For asbestos, this certificate is valid for one year only and must be renewed if a contract is signed after that period. Should asbestos be found, the owners are immediately required to inform the workers working on the property of its existence so that they wear the appropriate protective clothing and dispose of the rubbish appropriately. If the asbestos is found to be in poor condition however, the owner may be required to check its condition on a regular basis, or have an expert remove it within a period of three years
The inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause serious illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis, asbestos warts, pleural plaques and other pulmonary diseases and normally affect people who have exposure to it on a day to day basis or people who often work directly with it. Illnesses are unlikely to result from a single, high-level exposure or from a short period of exposure to lower levels.
Most asbestos containing materials found in properties are normally safe until disturbed or damaged and so people should normally always leave asbestos alone for as long as possible. However, once broken or damaged, asbestos could become a serious hazard.
Certain materials can only be handled by licensed contractors whilst others can be removed by builders or people who have sufficient experience in dealing with asbestos cement removals.
Listed below are a few simple and basic rules you should always remember when dealing with asbestos based materials:
– Get specialist advice from an asbestos surveyor
– Cover all surfaces with disposable polythene sheets
– Seal off the area where the work is being carried on
– Wear disposable protecting clothing and gloves
– Remove the asbestos without breaking it up or drilling
– Clear up any debris by wiping everything with a damp cloth
– Wrap and Seal properly for safe disposal
– Wash hands and face thoroughly
– Dispose of it at a local reclamation facility where you have special skips for asbestos.
To summarise, you should never panic if you find asbestos in your French property as it is normally a problem only if disturbed or broken. If you intend to purchase a property that contains asbestos, make sure you are aware of risks linked to this material. If you decide to have any work done, you must inform the artisan or worker, and a form should be signed to this effect. Should you find asbestos in your property, please make sure to seek professional advice first and make sure you do not break or drill it.