How Long Does Asbestos Stay In The Air If Disturbed?

Although the use of asbestos was banned in the UK twenty years ago (and blue and brown asbestos banned over thirty years ago), it can still be present in buildings constructed before 2000. With approximately 13 people dying per day of asbestos related illnesses in the UK alone, it is important that exposure to asbestos is as limited as possible and that people are aware of how long asbestos can linger in the air if disturbed.

How long does it take for asbestos dust to settle?

Asbestos fibres are extremely light. These fibres are thinner than a strand of hair, are extremely sharp and can’t be seen with the naked eye or tasted. Once disturbed, asbestos can take 48 – 72 hours to settle.

Types of Asbestos

Whether you work in construction or another field that involves being exposed to asbestos, it is essential that you understand the dangers and how to stay safe. Symptoms and illnesses related to asbestos exposure take an extremely long time to surface, so it is important to remain vigilant at all times.

There are six different varieties of asbestos:

  • Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos
  • Amosite, also referred to as brown asbestos
  • Crocidolite, also called blue asbestos
  • Anthophyllite
  • Actinolite
  • Tremolite

How you handle asbestos depends on whether you are working with cement, sprayed asbestos, lagging, insulating  board, coating or other materials that are known to contain asbestos. The different methods of safe handling is one of the many reasons it is essential to undergo regular asbestos awareness training.

Both Amosite and Crocidolite were banned in the UK in 1985, followed by Chrysotile in 1999. Asbestos is still used overseas, so it is important to bear this in mind if you work abroad.

How long does asbestos remain in the air?

Asbestos can remain in the air for 48 – 72 hours due to the size and shape of the fibres. However, if there are air currents in the same room as the disturbed asbestos, they can linger in the air longer. It is when these fibres are airborne that they can be breathed in, potentially causing a variety of illnesses and diseases.

What to do if asbestos is disturbed

If you are working in an area and are worried that asbestos has been disturbed, it is important to act quickly:

  • Inform everyone working within the area and remove anyone who is not essential to reduce exposure.
  • Identify if possible what caused the asbestos to be disturbed and gain control if safe to do so.
  • Clean up any dust or debris and ensure that all cleaning products and protective equipment is either decontaminated or destroyed afterwards.
  • Ensure that everyone who was exposed is decontaminated.

Asbestos Awareness Training

If you work in an environment that means you may be in contact with asbestos, it is vital that you undergo informative training and that you take refresher courses regularly.

At Online Asbestos, we offer several asbestos awareness online training courses. All of these courses are approved by the appropriate bodies and will ensure that you and the team you are working with are kept up to date with your asbestos awareness training.