Asbestos in a fire – is it a serious risk to public health?

asbestos fire

If asbestos fibre and dust are released into the air during a fire, it can cause serious health issues for anyone nearby. The presence of asbestos in a fire needs to be carefully managed to minimise the risk to firefighters and the public, as once airborne, the microscopic fibres are easily inhaled.

The sharp and brittle nature of some types of asbestos fibre means they’re likely to become lodged in the outer lining of the lungs, and potentially set up life-threatening diseases such as mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibres can also settle unnoticed in gardens and houses following a fire, creating an ongoing danger of exposure for householders and their families.

Asbestos and fires in older buildings

Older buildings constructed before the UK asbestos ban in 1999 are likely to contain asbestos in some form, so common was it as a fireproofing and insulating material. Flooring, pipework, ceilings, boilers, and ducts, are just some of the areas where the substance was used.

Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) often formed a fundamental part of the fabric of a building, and this creates an issue if the material bonding the asbestos is compromised in a fire.

What are the dangers posed by asbestos in a fire?

If asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can cause asbestos-related cancers and other diseases such as asbestosis. These illnesses are unusual in that they don’t generally manifest for several decades – sometimes 50 or 60 years after the initial exposure.

Malignant mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer attributed to the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos and affects the external lining of the lungs and the peritoneum.

As sufferers don’t typically experience significant symptoms until the later stages of the disease, their prognosis is generally poor. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show over 2,500 deaths occurred from mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2015, with no sign of these figures dropping until the end of the decade.

How can duty-holders manage the danger posed by asbestos in a fire?

If you’re responsible for managing asbestos in non-domestic premises, there are several ways you can meet your obligations as duty-holder. As far as asbestos in a fire is concerned, prevention is clearly a fundamental aspect and carrying out regular fire risk assessments is crucial.

If the worst-case scenario occurs and fire damages the building, you may need to carry out asbestos air testing and sampling to establish the scale of the problem. Asbestos air testing at the site of a fire helps to establish whether there is a threat to public health, and also informs a strategy for the clean-up operation and beyond.

Acorn Analytical Services undertake fire risk assessments, asbestos surveys, testing for asbestos and asbestos removal. If you’d like more information on the risk posed by asbestos in a fire, and how you can manage your risks, please contact one of our highly trained asbestos consultants.

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.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

Acorn Analytical Services asbestos surveyors Joseph Bell Daniel Crask at the Frank Bruno Foundation Centre e1618310393601

Acorn helps boxing legend to launch new centre

We are very proud to reveal we have been involved in an exciting new project to help create a new centre backed by none other than boxing legend, Frank Bruno. The Frank Bruno Foundation exists to provide support and the encouragement to succeed to those facing and recovering from mental ill-health. Its volunteers have worked …

Read MoreAcorn helps boxing legend to launch new centre

Asbestos artex testing 2

Asbestos Artex Testing – Textured Decorative Coatings

Why would you need asbestos Artex testing? First things first we need to explain that the word “Artex” is a trademark of Artex Ltd which is a company based in the UK. The word Artex is commonly used to describe a textured/decorative coating commonly used for interior decorating. Artex or textured coatings were frequently used …

Read MoreAsbestos Artex Testing – Textured Decorative Coatings

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 135 e1617699112137

What does asbestos mean to me?

When we decided to launch the ‘What does asbestos mean to me?’ campaign, which runs alongside Global Asbestos Awareness Week this week (#2021GAAW), I was asked to answer the question and I couldn’t help but get reflective. I’ve never met anyone that dreams of going into the asbestos industry when they grow up and I was no different. In fact, …

Read MoreWhat does asbestos mean to me?

Ian Stone and Neil Munro What does asbestos mean to me 2021GAAW scaled e1617701400805

Campaign shines a spotlight on dangers of asbestos

One of the UK’s most experienced teams of asbestos experts is championing a global campaign which launches today to raise awareness of the deadly substance. Leading asbestos consultancy Acorn Analytical Services is backing Global Asbestos Awareness Week – which runs from April 1 to April 7 – with the launch of its own campaign entitled …

Read MoreCampaign shines a spotlight on dangers of asbestos

hammer 719061 1920 e1616677177737

Companies fined for failing to manage asbestos safely

We recently heard about a case of a construction company and a property management company being fined thousands of pounds after they failed to manage asbestos safely during the refurbishment of a former office block in Stockport. Last month, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard Samer Constructions Limited had …

Read MoreCompanies fined for failing to manage asbestos safely

Collage e1608286815218

Mesothelioma – Hard to Say, Easy to Prevent

In recent months we have been privileged to support a dynamic new charity that is fighting to eradicate the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. ActionMeso launched last year to bring together mesothelioma patients with carers, healthcare and legal professionals, asbestos removal firms and construction companies. Together they want to raise awareness across the UK about this devastating …

Read MoreMesothelioma – Hard to Say, Easy to Prevent

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 166 e1615384829809

Acorn launches free asbestos advice surgery

When we say we’re committed to eradicating people’s asbestos problems we mean it! Which is why we’re excited to launch our asbestos advice surgery! In our day-to-day work we provide businesses with innovative asbestos management services which reduce their risk of asbestos exposure, prosecution and fines. We know that for many people asbestos feels like …

Read MoreAcorn launches free asbestos advice surgery

Sian Stone Dan Crask 2

Acorn employees put best foot forward for charities

You may remember a few weeks ago that we ran a guest blog by our Commercial Manager Sian Stone on her marathon effort to raise funds to tackle the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. Sian set herself the target of raising £200 by running at least 50 miles – or the length of nearly two marathons – …

Read MoreAcorn employees put best foot forward for charities

Rare disease day

Why Rare Diseases Day should be important to everyone

This Sunday, campaigners from around the world will unite their voices under the banner of the 14th annual Rare Diseases Day. This international event is coordinated by Eurordis – the voice of rare disease patients in Europe – every 28 February to raise awareness amongst the public and decisionmakers about rare diseases and their impact …

Read MoreWhy Rare Diseases Day should be important to everyone

Acorn Analytical Services Asbestos Solutions commecial photography 17

Tragic case reveals another dangerous aspect of asbestos

This month the dangers of asbestos hit the headlines once more but maybe not for the reason you might expect. Anyone who regularly follows our blogs or listens to our podcasts will know how hard we work to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos-related diseases. Sadly, a case which came to court recently showed …

Read MoreTragic case reveals another dangerous aspect of asbestos