The Health and Safety Commission's (HSC) amendments to the current asbestos laws come into force today, bringing the UK more in line with Europe.
The changes to the Asbestos (Prohibition) Regulations 1992 will primarily affect the importation of products containing asbestos into the UK.
The HSC has modified the existing ban on importing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) so that only those where the asbestos has been intentionally added are now prohibited from being imported.
This brings the importation ban into line with the existing prohibition on supply and use of ACMs, and will ensure the UK meets obligations under European single market regulations.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which can be found in a wide variety of bedrock, usually only in tiny quantities. Before this amendment, the importation ban applied to anything containing asbestos, including those minerals that include a small amount as a naturally occurring impurity.
This meant the importation of many minerals from areas where tiny amounts of asbestos are found in the bedrock was technically illegal, irrespective of the level or risk involved.
Minerals for which specific concerns have been expressed over asbestos impurities include olivine, vermiculite, talc, dolomite, hermatite, iron ore, basalt, marble, chrome ore, magnetite and wollastonite.
Another unintended affect of the existing legislation was that the UK was in breach of the European Union’s single market rules.