Asbestos cement differs from AIB in that the material has a higher density and contains cement. This means that it is less likely to release asbestos fibres, and also has a greater capacity to repel water. As such, it is more suited to external applications but is not suitable as a fire-retardant board.
Asbestos cement has been used extensively to make corrugated and flat sheets, as well as other moulded products such as flower planters, coal stores, low-pressure and high-pressure flues and pipework, as well as junction boxes, heat resistant mats and flash guards.
Asbestos cement is generally a well-bonded material and presents a lower risk to health: if damaged the material can release asbestos fibres, but the levels will generally be lower than for similarly damaged AIB. The treatment of asbestos cement is generally regarded as lower risk and does not usually require the use of a licensed contractor. Those working with asbestos cement will need to comply with The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The use of this material was widespread.
If maintained in a good condition the risk to clients is considered minimal, assuming appropriate management processes are in place. Most asbestos cement tends not to be removed by licensed contractors so the levels of cleanliness after work can be poor.
Widespread asbestos cement debris has been identified following the sale of a warehouse unit. The client had acquired the site and reviewed the documentation, which highlighted that the property previously had an asbestos cement roof. This had been removed and replaced by a roofing contractor in the previous 5 years. Upon completion of the sale, the client planned to refurbish the property and commissioned an asbestos survey. This survey identified extensive asbestos cement debris on the purlins, and on top of the false ceilings to the offices.
Asbestos cement was manufactured at a number of locations around the UK. It was commonplace for the manufacturers of the cement products to allow local farms to collect damaged or poor-quality sheets for use as hardcore. Typically, this material was used to form roadways and tracks, which are still present today and the asbestos content of which is generally poorly documented.
Asbestos cement cladding was used extensively on the outside of a steel-framed rural property. It needs to be disposed of at an approved site as licensed by the Environment Agency for the disposal of asbestos waste. In the past, it was commonplace for this material to be buried on farms.