Brownfield sites and the danger of asbestos in soil

Asbestos in soil image

Our rich industrial past, and the subsequent redevelopment of land on which factories, mills and warehouses once stood, has led to a significant health and safety issue in the form of asbestos in soil.

Derelict and disused areas of land, known as ‘brownfield’ sites, are being used to address the UK’s housing crisis, but with the obvious benefits of this come the dangers of asbestos soil contamination, and an ensuing risk to those working on-site.

Why is asbestos found in soil?

The buildings originally sited on brownfield land are likely to have contained high levels of asbestos, being constructed at a time when asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were widely used to insulate and fireproof.

Lagging for pipe work and boilers, and sprayed coatings for fireproofing walls, ceilings and steel columns, were just two common uses. But it was the sheer overall volume of asbestos in industrial buildings that introduces the risk of contamination in soil following demolition.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that asbestos use was only banned in the UK at the end of 1999, so effectively any building constructed prior to this could have contained the substance.

So why does asbestos in soil pose a danger?

Asbestos in soil is a key health and safety issue, not only for construction workers and other professionals working on these sites, but also for local residents and buyers of the new homes.

During the demolition process microscopic asbestos fibres can easily be released into the air, or alternatively, may remain in the ground. As they’re not readily visible, they can cause health issues if subsequently disturbed by homeowners.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen that causes serious and terminal illnesses when inhaled or ingested, and a high number of deaths have been attributed to asbestos over previous decades.

According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics, in 2015 alone there were 2,542 deaths from mesothelioma, a form of cancer directly related to asbestos exposure, and 467 deaths from asbestosis.¹

Dealing with the problem of asbestos in soil

Apart from the legal obligations of construction companies to protect their workforce, residents in the areas earmarked for brownfield development, as well as the house purchasers themselves, are likely to need reassurance that investigations have been undertaken and any asbestos safely removed.

It’s possible that conveyance documents won’t reveal the existence of asbestos if it lies buried in the soil, and therefore more detailed investigations including asbestos surveys and testing may need to be carried out.

If you require asbestos in soil testing and analytical support, we can provide the professional assistance you need. Acorn Analytical Services offers asbestos testing and inspection services – we can provide a fixed price quote and free, impartial advice based on the results.

Please contact one of our expert asbestos consultants to discuss your needs.

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

RAAC and asbestos could be a problem in some buildings

The Ultimate Guide to Asbestos Surveyors: Why Your Safety Depends on It

Asbestos, once a ‘miracle material’, now poses severe health risks. Uncover the significance of asbestos surveys in the UK and why your safety depends on it.

Asbestos: Having the right consultancy in your corner has never been more important

‘Having the right consultancy to help you manage asbestos has never been more important’

A REPORT written by asbestos expert and director of Acorn Analytical Services, Ian Stone, has highlighted the worrying state of asbestos in the UK. The Annual Asbestos Industry Review provides a unique insight into the industry and a snapshot of the work being done by Acorn Analytical Services – one of the largest independent consultancies … Read more

Management of asbestos in schools

Management of Asbestos in Schools: A Comprehensive Analysis

In this blog post, we delve into the critical issue of asbestos management in UK schools, the recent HSE report, and the role of Acorn Analytical Services in ensuring safe learning environments.

Asbestos: Dispelling 3 common myths

Is your business fully compliant with the latest asbestos regulations?

HOW much do you really know about asbestos? If your building was built before 1999, have you ever had it checked? If you know it’s there, do you know for sure that you’re compliant with the latest rules and regulations around asbestos management? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘no’ it’s time … Read more

Asbestos in fire

Act Now: Uncover the Silent Perils of Asbestos in Fire-Damaged Buildings – A Deep Dive into the Brighton Hotel Incident

Asbestos in fire situations poses significant health risks. Understand the dangers, especially in textured coatings, and the need for expert remediation.

Acorn Analytical Services director Ian Stone has worked in the asbestos industry for 20 years.

#ActNowOnAsbestos: How our FREE training sessions will help raise awareness

ASBESTOS is firmly in the headlines once again and we’re delighted to see an open and very frank discussion finally taking place about the material itself, the risks around mesothelioma and the steps we should all be taking to protect ourselves. At Acorn Analytical Services it’s something we’ve been talking about for years and as … Read more

Asbestos: Having the right consultancy in your corner has never been more important

‘Supporting #ActNowOnAsbestos is the right thing for us to do’

Last weekend The Sunday Times launched #ActNowOnAsbestos, a hard-hitting campaign which urges the Government to take urgent action to protect people from the UK’s asbestos epidemic. The campaign makes important recommendations to help protect members of the public from the hidden dangers of asbestos, which poses a serious threat to our health and wellbeing more … Read more

Ian Stone, director of asbestos management consultancy, Acorn Analytical Services

‘We finally have hope – hope that those in authority will take notice, take action and save lives’

Media statement in response to the launch of the Sunday Times Campaign, Act Now on Asbestos: Ian Stone, Director of Acorn Analytical Services, said: “For ten years Acorn Analytical Services has been on the front line of the UK’s battle with asbestos, banging the drum for change and fighting to raise awareness of the sheer … Read more

Using our success to highlight the dangers of asbestos

How we’re using our success to drive home the dangers of asbestos

The whole team at asbestos consultancy Acorn Analytical Services was over the moon to walk away with not one, but two awards at the prestigious Northamptonshire SME Awards earlier this month. Directors Neil Munro, Paul Knights and Sam Savage were in Daventry for the event which celebrates the work of businesses across Northamptonshire and their … Read more

Men's Health Week: Focus on a hidden killer

Men’s Health Week: Mesothelioma is the killer few are talking about

FOR many men mesothelioma is a very real threat. Caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, it’s a cancer which affects 2,500 people every year in the UK. More than 80% of those are men. This Men’s Health Week, the team at Acorn Analytical Services is determined to shine a light on the dangers of asbestos … Read more