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Asbestos cement

Where do you find asbestos cement?

Asbestos cement is mainly a mixture of chrysotile (white asbestos) and cement, moulded and compressed to produce a range of asbestos cement products. You can find asbestos cement in many places inside and outside buildings such as:

Asbestos cement roofs

These are mainly made up of large sheets of corrugated asbestos cement; they are often found on industrial or farmyard buildings, but can also be found as roofs on garages and sheds. They are often covered in moss and other growths as they've been there for many years.

Asbestos wall cladding

This has a shape and structure similar to roof sheeting, and is often found on walls/as walls of buildings with asbestos cement roofs.

Asbestos downpipes and gutters

These are often attached at the end of cement roofs in warehouse type buildings.

Asbestos cement flues

These may be found in boiler systems (including domestic) air conditioning and ventilation systems.

Asbestos cement and pitch fibre water and sewer pipes

Drainage pipes, such as water and sewage pipes, were often made of pitch fibre. This is a lightweight and easy to handle material, made of wood cellulose impregnated with
inert coal tar pitch. Asbestos cement was added to strengthen the material.

Articles

Examples of articles include water tanks, fire surrounds and pipes.

What does it look like?

Asbestos cement is just ordinary cement mixed with asbestos, in some cases asbestos can make up over a third of the cement. It is a hard, grey material which was moulded and compressed to produce some of the materials listed above.

How dangerous is this?

Work on any type of asbestos can be dangerous. Work with asbestos cement can be carried out by non-licensed workers who are appropriately trained. This work would generally not need to be notified.

If the work is likely to cause significant break up and deterioration of the material e.g ‘dropping an asbestos cement roof’ then notification would be required.

There may be very exceptional circumstances where the asbestos cement has been so badly damaged that there is significant risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. In these  rare cases a risk assessment will help to determine if a licensed contractor is required.

Asbestos essentials includes a number of task sheets which will show you how to safely carry out non-licensed work on asbestos cement products.

If there is uncertainty to whether a material is asbestos cement then a competent asbestos analyst will be able to carry out a water absorption test. This will determine if the material is asbestos cement or if it is another asbestos material that may require a licensed contractor to carry out the work.

Updated 2015-08-13