Asbestos has been long sought after for its excellent heat resistance, versatility, strength, and affordability. Asbestos became increasingly popular during the 19th century, but it soon became apparent that it was the cause of a multitude of health problems. Asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers. Asbestos use was finally banned in the United States in 1978. However, builders and manufacturers were still allowed to use the rest of their supply, meaning homes built as late as 1986 may still contain asbestos. In the United States, reports show that up to 30 million homes and commercial buildings consist of some form of asbestos-containing material.
The daunting process of asbestos abatement and removal is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Asbestos removal should only be handled by a licensed asbestos removal contractor. Often times, disturbing asbestos containing materials can be more hazardous than simply leaving them alone. Materials in good condition should generally not be touched. If asbestos does pose a threat, than either repair or removal is considered. Only a licensed professional can test for asbestos and assess whether or not removal is safe and necessary. There are strict federal and state guidelines that need to be followed for the handling, removal and disposal of asbestos. Asbestos can be found in many areas of buildings and homes such as:
- Roofing, shingles
- Wall insulation
If you suspect that asbestos is in your home, have a licensed asbestos removal contractor come and test for it. A home inspection will be conducted, samples of material will be tested, and recommendations will be made on how to handle removal. Actual removal is generally a last resort because of the potential health risks involved. Disturbing asbestos materials during the removal process can cause fibers to become airborne, where they can be inhaled or ingested. If damaged material is found in your home, there are two options, which are removal or repair.
Asbestos repair can be done in the following ways:
- Encapsulation – Asbestos materials will be coated with a sealant to keep fibers from becoming airborne.
- Enclosure – Asbestos materials are covered with an airtight material to prevent the release of fibers into the air.
There are strict state and federal guidelines that must be adhered to for safe asbestos removal. The federal government offers training courses for licensed professionals to perform the following steps:
- The area is sealed off typically with plastic sheeting to keep fibers from getting into other areas. Taped seals are double checked to make sure that fibers cannot escape.
- HEPA air filters are placed in the work area and clean air exhaust ducts are installed outside of the area. The HEPA filters clean the air within the work area, while the exhaust ducts clean the air just outside while trapping any stray fibers that may have escaped.
- Workers are instructed to wear a protective suit and respirators while removing asbestos material.
- The work area is tightly secured. When asbestos removal begins unauthorized individuals may not enter the work space.
- In-progress inspections are performed to ensure that all asbestos materials were completely removed. Asbestos materials are place in double plastic bags 6 mil thick.
- After removal is complete, the work area is cleaned with HEPA vacuums and wiped down.
When removed, asbestos materials must be placed in a sealed dumpster and disposed of at an approved asbestos disposal site. A DTSC certificate must accompany the asbestos materials so that it is properly labeled as toxic, hazardous waste. Proper disposal is very important to ensure that asbestos materials are undisturbed and do not pose any further health hazards.