Asbestos is a dangerous substance which can cause many serious diseases, including cancer. Workers in the construction industry are at particular risk of being exposed to asbestos dust when processing materials which contain asbestos.

These pages are primarily aimed at people employed within the construction industry who are developers, employers or employees, but they are also intended for private individuals. You will find advice on safe procedures for the removal of asbestos.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a collective term for a number of naturally occurring minerals. The dominant type of asbestos is chrysotile (white asbestos). Asbestos has been in use for many years due to its valuable technical properties. Asbestos has high mechanical strength and flexibility, high thermal durability (which means that it tolerates high temperatures), good sound- and heat-insulating properties, as well as high chemical durability, which means it is resistant to chemicals.

When processing or dismantling materials containing asbestos, large quantities of asbestos fibres are released which remain suspended in the air for long periods of time, as they are very light and thin. It is dangerous to inhale these asbestos fibres, as they can cause a number of serious lung diseases, including cancer. The most common form of cancer is mesothelioma, which is a very serious form of tumour. This cancer kills hundreds of people every year in Sweden.

Today, the use of asbestos is prohibited, but the material has previously been used in a wide variety of applications, including:

  • as fire protection in steel structures, ventilation systems and refuse rooms;
  • as thermal insulation on pipes and boilers;
  • as noise insulation and reinforcement in sheets, ducts and floor panels;
  • in plastic mat underlays;
  • in tile adhesives and sealing compounds; and
  • in paints and plaster.

Which professional groups are most exposed to asbestos?

It is primarily professions within the construction industry which are at risk of being exposed to asbestos dust. The installation of asbestos or materials containing asbestos has been prohibited for many years, but asbestos is still present in older buildings in particular and constitutes a risk for workers involved in renovations in the construction industry. Examples of professional groups at risk of being exposed to asbestos are demolition workers, HVAC engineers, electricians, joiners, floor-layers and roofers. Cleaning personnel and caretakers can also be exposed to asbestos.

How can the risks associated with asbestos be reduced?

It is important to be aware of whether or not a material contains asbestos, and it is often necessary to take a sample in order to obtain a definite answer to this question. Always take an asbestos sample if there is any doubt whatsoever. If the material proves to contain asbestos and there is a risk of exposure to asbestos dust during work, a permit from the Swedish Work Environment Authority, special safety measures, protective equipment and specialist training will be required in order to be permitted to handle any materials which contain asbestos.

The professional handling of asbestos is regulated by the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s Regulations on Asbestos (AFS 2006:1). These regulations apply to all enterprises where there is a risk of exposure to asbestos dust. A permit from the Swedish Work Environment Authority is required in order to work with asbestos and materials which contain asbestos. You can apply for a permit on our page on permits, notifications and forms.

Last updated 2020-12-14