Older storage heaters, especially those manufactured before 1977, often contain components made with asbestos. This makes these appliances an ongoing hazard to human health. In most appliances of this type, the hazardous material is found in the thermal insulation under the heat storage core. Storage heaters from some manufacturers also contain asbestos in the plates on the sides and above the core.
From miracle material to health hazard
For years, asbestos was praised as a “miracle material” because it does not burn (“asbestos” is Greek for “inextinguishable”), is heat-resistant and chemically stable, and also has strong electric and thermal insulation properties. Only in the 1960s and 1970s did studies reveal its tumour-causing effects. Due to their small size (>5 μm long and <3 μm in diameter), asbestos fibres can make their way deep into the lungs, but they are too large to be absorbed by the body’s own defence mechanisms.
Air quality studies with various brands have shown that undamaged storage ovens do not pose any significant risk when in operation. Therefore, an immediate change to a new heater is not absolutely necessary, but it is recommended as a preventative measure to avoid any health risks.
Disposing of storage heaters
The normal procedure is to reduce the storage heater’s weight before transporting it by disassembling it and then taking away individual pieces. For units that contain asbestos, however, this cannot be done without releasing asbestos into the air. Therefore, permanently installed storage heaters may only be disassembled and removed by officially authorised companies (hazardous waste collectors/processors). Small storage heaters that have not been disassembled must be accepted at collection centres. We recommend that you seal all openings with heavy-duty tape and wrap the unit in strong, tear-proof plastic film.
Do it for the sake of your own health!
Has it got asbestos in it?
The first thing to do is to determine whether your storage heater contains asbestos or not. In Vienna, just give the make and model information to the employees at the “Rinterzelt” waste treatment facility (tel.: 01 4000, ext. 48866) to find out. In Austria’s other states, you can get this information from the waste management consultants or waste management associations for your area (see www.yourate.at/abfallberater/bundeslaender.php), from state government offices, or from the WEEE coordination centre.
Depending on the type of appliance, the model number can be found at various locations on the storage heater:
– under the ventilation grating at the right, readable from outside (adhesive label)
– after unscrewing the exhaust grating on the support leg at the left or on the base plate (aluminium plate)
– near the bottom of the right side panel, readable from outside (adhesive label)
– near the cable entry point on the rear panel.
For storage heaters with no label affixed to them, you should contact the company that installed the heater to ask for the make and model information.
Austrian state government offices
“die umweltberatung” environmental consulting office, Vienna
1100 Wien, Buchengasse 77
+43 1 803 32 32
Vienna Environmental Protection Department (MA22)
1200 Wien, Dresdner Straße 45
+43 1 4000 73440
EAK Austria GmbH
1070 Wien, Mariahilfer Straße 84
+43 1 522 37 62 – 31