How to Safely Handle Asbestos?

By January 16, 2020 Safety

Asbestos is not banned in the US but its use is limited.  Asbestos containing materials (ACM) still pose a danger in to the public because they were common building products in homes, schools and buildings constructed before the 1980s.  Asbestos abatement involves the identification, removal, repair and encapsulation of materials in a structure to eliminate the threat of exposure to toxic asbestos. Because asbestos doesn’t burn, it was used in many products and materials to resist heat. This made asbestos containing materials valuable to the building industry. 

Asbestos-containing products are generally safe when untouched and undisturbed, they become brittle and can crumble over time.  The popularity of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects have people doing more projects on their own and has made them more aware of asbestos exposure.  Here are four situations when you should test a structure for asbestos:

  1. DIY Remodeling Projects
  2. Natural or Manmade Disasters Disturbed a Building’s Structure
  3. You Own a Structure Built Before 1980
  4. Crumbled, Worn or Broken Asbestos-Containing Materials Found in a Building

If damaged asbestos-containing materials are not properly removed by an asbestos abatement company, they can put your life in danger and those who come in contact with asbestos dust, fibers or raw asbestos materials. 

Inhaling or ingesting asbestos can lead to serious health issues such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural plaques and asbestos lung cancer.  About 3,000 people are diagnosed annually with mesothelioma in the US and an estimated 10,000 people die each year from some type of asbestos-related disease.  Microscopic asbestos fibers are .01 microns thick, this means they are 18,000 times thinner than a human hair. 

Type of Asbestos Abatement Work

Class I Asbestos Work:

  • Activities involving the removal of asbestos used to prevent heat loss or gain, surfacing asbestos-containing materials and those suspected of containing asbestos.

Class II Asbestos Work:

  • Removal of non thermal asbestos-containing materials such as wallboards, floor tiles and sheeting, roofing and siding shingles and construction mastics.

Class III Asbestos Work:

  • Repair and maintenance operations of any asbestos-containing materials that will likely be disturbed.  Class III is most likely used for removing asbestos. 

Asbestos Abatement Process

Abatement begins with a certified asbestos inspector who takes samples of suspected asbestos.  These samples are analyzed at a lab to determine the extent of the problem.  Asbestos removal can be difficult and complex and includes several site preparations. 

  • Work area established
  • HVAC and electrical systems disabled
  • New electrical system installed to power negative air pressure units that avoid contamination of air outside work area
  • Decontamination enclosure systems installed
  • Seal openings with plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Wet wipe or use a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter on non movable objects to keep asbestos from becoming airborne
  • Seal immobile items with plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Cover surface not getting abated with plastic sheeting
  • Post warning signs that read: Danger, Asbestos, Cancer and Lung Disease Hazard, Authorized Personnel Only, Respirators and Protective Clothing are Required in this Area
  • Clean up any mess with a HEPA vacuum
  • Disposal requires asbestos-containing waste be sealed in leak-tight containers while still wet, then clearly labeled and taken to qualified landfills that have specific requirements for securing the waste and preventing fibers from escaping into the air
  • Vehicles that transport the waste to the landfill must have specific requirements and labeling instructions

You may see these safety tools and common asbestos abatement equipment on the job site:

  • HEPA Vacuum
  • Respirator
  • Eyeware
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Disposable Coveralls
  • Rubber Boots

Asbestos abatement must adhere to the federal regulations governing the process and protective measures taken to ensure the safety of asbestos abatement and the public.  Commercial buildings can become multimillion dollar asbestos abatement projects.  Research asbestos abatement contractors, ask for references and how they remove the asbestos from properties.  Frontier Industrial Corporation is one of the most experienced demolition and remediation companies in North America, including asbestos abatement at large-scale industrial sites.  Call us today at 716-447-7587 and we will assess your building and make sure any asbestos is removed properly and safely. 

Article adapted from: https://www.asbestos.com/abatement-guide/