Question re asbestos, construction and is it in my house?

Today, some workmen were at my flat to fit a new door. It’s a pretty serious door, so it involved a lot of drilling and general bashing of door area. Hearing one guy mention asbestos made me a bit concerned, but they weren’t wearing protective gear. Eventually I asked them about this, and they said that, no, there was none involved in my place, and they were referring to the apartment upstairs.

So I am wondering how likely this is to be the case. If building a block of flats, I cannot see that the individual apartments would vary in this way.

So, should I worry about his much or not at all? Does anyone have knowledge of the blasted stuff?

I did see an earlier thread, but I’m sort of asking not so much about the substance, but about how likely it can be for the problem to be on floor A but not on B.

And I’m sorry if this belongs in IMHO - I found it tough to decide, I’m afraid.

You’re using the word “flat” instead of “apartment”, and you sound like “repairs to my apartment” is your problem, not the landlord’s problem. Knowing that people in the UK “purchase flats” instead of “renting apartments” I therefore deduce that you are speaking to us from the UK.

A quick check of the Profile: “Location: Scotland”. Ah ha! I’m brilliant.

Er, um, well, as to the OP: here in the States, the minute you say the word “asbestos” on a jobsite, it’s like saying “Ku Klux Klan” at a black prayer meeting. Not funny, in other words. A sudden terrible silence falls. The merest hint that there might be asbestos removal involved will cause hardened workmen to turn pale and step away from their work. Oh, it’s not the stuff itself, they can deal with that. It’s the Environmental Protection Agency, the fell and grim EEEE PEEEE AYYYYYYY!! [ominous music]

To this Federal agency has been given the awesome power not only to shut a worksite down indefinitely the minute anybody mentions “asbestos”, but also to charge the contractor hefty fines if he fails to complete the holy quest of Asbestos Removal to the EPA’s persnickety satisfactions.

Now I will tell you the story of the local post office and the asbestos in the floor (true story, brought to you courtesy of the Better Half, who is a letter carrier and Who Was There.) A few years back they decided to run an extra telephone line (land line) down through the floor to the supervisor’s office in the workroom, so as to facilitate his new computer. While they were drilling the 1/2 inch hole in the floor for the telephone line, somebody unwisely said, “Hey, aren’t these asbestos tiles?” WHAM, SLAM, the walls closed in, they had to report it to the Feds, the EPA came in and shut everything down, and the Post Office had to spend thousands of dollars to have an EPA-sanctioned professional asbestos removal team come in and remove all the asbestos floor tile.

It took weeks. And when they finally got it all done and got the land line installed–it didn’t work. But everybody’s afraid to say anything, for fear there might be more asbestos around somewhere.

So, no wonder your workmen suddenly started hemming and hawing when you said the “A” word.

If you really want to know whether they used asbestos in building your apartment, you could find a building contractor (who doesn’t do asbestos removal on the side :rolleyes: ) and have him come look at it. (Offer him a $20 “consultation fee”.) He ought to know what the local construction trades are using in their buildings.

…and the few morsels of contractor meat the EPA doesn’t consume, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration finishes off.

Even if there was asbestos used in the constrution of your apartment it’s better left right where it is & not disturbed. Otherwise you simply bring up the dust.

I remember when we used asbestos plates in school to put a beaker on when it was above a flame. sigh

Oh, woe is me, DuckDuckGoose Thing is, as far as I undestand (not far) it’s most trouble when it is disturbed. And there are serious laws about it here too. Lots of guys got mesothelioma etc in building the Clyde ships (Queen Mary, QE2 etc). Building practices are different now, but my block is from the 60s and I think it is very likely to have been used, and that it is very likely not to be publicised.

I wonder what, if anything, they told the upstairs folk. I think I might have a project of talking to Environmental Protection bods, and so on. And there might still be a local-ish action group on asbestos. Hmm, I wonder whether local politcians would like to receive long letters from me.

Anyway, DDG, the notion of getting an outside guy to look is something to think about: thank you.

I will interject a note of calm. Asbestos is bretty benign when in a solid i.e. not airborne state; hence the plates referred to. Now the big problem in your case is whether there is asbestos fibre in the plaster surrounding the doorjamb. I would get someone to look at that and see what has been disturbed.
As an additional aside, I don’t see how replacing a door would create such a mess unless the fitters are absolute hacks. This is finish carpentry and they should be doing their damnedest NOT to disturb the plaster to minimize any touch up work later.

Now if you have drywall (gypsum board), I wouldn’t really worry necause the asbestos is most likely in the insulation and pretty well encapsulated and safe.

Many thanks, MikeG. Well, it’s just that they seemed to think it somehow relevant to their activity, which left me wondering. I imagine there will be some around, but as you say, it’s OK till disturbed. It’s actually a security sort of door that takes up the whole space from floor to ceiling, so I think there is more bashing around than would perhaps be usual. Their concern seem to be about a panel above a normal door, which in these cases needs to be removed. In my case, it was already gone, and replaced by a glass panel.

I’m kind of annoyed on general principle because I wonder what risk there is to people (even if not me) and how openly they are informed.

I know what, I’ll wait and see if the cat gets terribly ill. :slight_smile: Seriously, though, thank you very much.

Something to consider and possibly check-up on; my “facts” might not be right on. I’d do it for you, but I’m not the one with a potential asbestos problem. A possible place to start your research is the book “Environmental Overkill” by Dixie Lee Ray. Operative word: “start.” She’s a BIG axe to grind in her book, but she does list her sources. Here goes.

There are several types of asbestos, only three are used comercially. Of the three, the one known as crocidolite causes the serious trouble (cancer and asbestosis). This received very limited use in the U.S. (can’t say about other places) primarily in shipyards during WWII. In addition to being bad for you, crocidolite asbestos has a very sharp fiber - - you breathe it in, it doesn’t come out.

Far more common in terms of commercial usage is chrysotile asbestos. It is softer and can be expelled from the body much more readily than other types of asbestos. Ray cites studies that show no statistically significant links between high chrysotile asbestos exposure and cancer.

Oftentimes, the work to remove the asbestos actually releases more fibers into the air than leaving the stuff alone. If possible, (and if you’re really worried) coat what you think has asbestos with a few layers of paint.

Although asbestos has been used in a lot of different construction materials (floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roofing material, carpet mastic, some adhesives, piping insulation, etc.), I can’t think of any that would be in a door frame. I assume your door frame is wooden surrounded by a wooden or masonry wall. No asbestos there as far as I know.

Many thanks, everyone. It begins to look like a non-problem really, but I’m glad I posted it and got reassuring answers from you all. I think I’ll keep a copy of this thread for next time builders etc use alarming words in my hearing - yes that could be a good idea. :slight_smile: Thank you very much.

Celyn, I can understand your concern. You might search here for asbestos as it’s been talked about a bit. e.g. Brake shoes were/or still are made from asbestos & there was/is plenty of asbestos dust in traffic for a long time.