HSE offers advice to users of Bunsen burner wire gauzes that may contain asbestos

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has become aware of two suppliers of scientific equipment that have supplied mesh gauzes with asbestos-containing centres. The material on the gauzes is used for its heat-resistant properties. The gauzes are conventionally used with tripods and Bunsen burners as shown above.

Although steps have been taken to prevent further supply by the suppliers identified so far, this will have implications for schools, colleges and other facilities which use these mesh gauzes.

Any gauzes that contain asbestos should not be used, and they must be safely disposed of as asbestos waste. As a precaution, if you are unclear as to what any gauze coating is made of then you should assume that it contains asbestos and follow the instructions below.

What is the associated risk from asbestos with use of the material?

Analysis of the gauze material by HSE has identified that it is fibrous in nature and contains some asbestos, which is a known hazardous substance. Any risk from asbestos depends on the extent of asbestos fibre release and inhalation of these very fine fibres.

The risk from asbestos in the gauze material from normal tripod use will generally be extremely low for several reasons including the following:

  • the material is predominantly non-asbestos
  • there is very limited physical contact with the material during use (eg essentially placing items on top)
  • any contact is light and momentary

As a result, any free fibre release into the air will be minimal for normal use. However, the material is soft and crumbly and some small particles or fragments may detach on occasions including during use. Particles and debris may also break off over time through abrasion or impact in storage. These particles and fragments do not represent an airborne risk.

As a precautionary measure, and in line with the general legal requirement to prevent exposure to asbestos, the gauzes should be disposed of (see the advice from the HSE here under “What do I Need To Do”).  Any debris in containers or boxes should be carefully cleaned up and also disposed of.

Asbestos gauzes – FAQs

The HSE has also published some answers to frequently asked questions here.