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Asbestos and Fire – What Are The Risks?

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Asbestos is something which is a major health risk and can cause serious damage to the lungs and the respiratory system following exposure. However, asbestos and fire can make the material pose be a greater risk when damaged in this way. In order to try and help with this, we’re taking a look at some of the risks which are associated with asbestos and fire.

 

What are the risks associated with asbestos in a fire?

One of the fundamental issues which are involved with asbestos and fire is that the materials were actually used for structural elements within the properties. Things like support beam cladding, firebreaks, doors and even ceiling coatings can contain asbestos. While this was useful for fire protection, due to the strength of the asbestos fibre and its resistance to heat, this is relative to the immense health risks which the material can present.

The issues which are created by asbestos materials during fires are that the fire destroys the hosting materials used to house the asbestos fibre. The breakdown of the asbestos materials can lead to significant fibre release. Asbestos has a much higher melting point compared to other construction materials.

 

Melting point of fibreglass = 1,121°C

Melting point of plaster = 1,200°C

Melting point of steel = 1,370°C

Melting point of Asbestos = 1,521°C

 

Therefore, if the temperature of the fire does get too hot, the construction of the building will deteriorate as the building materials burn in the fire. This can not only make the building structurally dangerous to firefighters entering the building searching for people, but also hazardous from the asbestos fibre left damaged in the building. Damaged asbestos materials release asbestos fibre, which can then become airborne. Once airborne they can be inhaled. This exposure can lead on to developing asbestos-related diseases, although this may not be visible immediately. It can take anything from 15 to 50 years to develop any signs of lung problems caused by asbestos to make itself visible.

 

Are Firefighters Safe?

People who are most at risk from these types of materials during fires are firefighters, who regularly have to enter buildings and attempt to rescue people who are trapped. While modern uniforms are outfitted with materials to try and prevent the inhalation of these hazardous materials, the risk is still present. People who spend a long time in the building when it is burning are also at risk, as they lack the protective equipment which firefighter and emergency services will have. Also, people who are located within close proximity to the fire will also be at risk from exposure to hazardous materials extruding from the burning building.

Overall, the risk of asbestos following a fire or during a fire is quite high. There’s a risk of the fibres being released into the atmosphere following an interaction with the intense heat, as well as being a risk to the structural integrity of the building. It’s important to understand the risks associated with asbestos and fire.  If you have concerns about asbestos, Acorn can provide you with a fully comprehensive survey to identify if you are at risk from asbestos, and assist with the removal of the asbestos for you in a cost-effective and efficient manner, so you are no longer at risk from asbestos and fire.

 

Have you discovered asbestos?

If you have had a house or building fire and think you have discovered asbestos, it is important you have it tested. Click here to contact the Acorn Asbestos team and get your free consultation.

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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