Asbestos abatement generally refers to the safe and legal removal of asbestos.
Asbestos is hazardous, and many of its uses have been banned.
But a lot of asbestos products and materials are still with us.
And that asbestos can cause breathing diseases and other health problems, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
That’s why there are licensed asbestos abatement companies who have the knowledge and training to safely remove and dispose of asbestos.
Asbestos was once a mainstay of American industry. For decades, this naturally resilient, heat-resistant mineral was used to fabricate and reinforce everything from automotive parts to roof shingles and floor tiles. Home-builders, manufacturers, and even the United States military relied on asbestos to create durable products and fire-proofed structures.
Despite asbestos’s wide-ranging uses, we know today that asbestos poses an incredible hazard to human health. People who once worked with, lived around, or otherwise interacted with the mineral face an elevated risk of developing serious physical conditions, up to and including cancer.
Not all asbestos has been banned in the United States.
Asbestos materials in buildings still pose a public health problem.
Although the federal Environmental Protection Agency banned the sale and use of most asbestos-based products in 1989, many homes, offices, and schools remain contaminated. While remnant asbestos is not necessarily dangerous when left undisturbed, routine renovations and demolition could compromise the integrity of older asbestos materials, creating a significant environmental risk.
In general, the United States government and other health regulators recommend that homeowners avoid engaging with any household building materials they suspect could maintain asbestos. However, individuals seeking to sell an asbestos-affected property may have to address asbestos-related threats to ensure their own safety, comply with local law, and reduce their personal civil liability.
Asbestos removal, sometimes referred to as abatement, should always be performed by an experienced and properly licensed company, and disposed of in a registered asbestos landfill.
Businesses in some states may be required to treat asbestos as a toxin and supply any employees tasked with removing asbestos with tight-fitting face masks and other safety equipment.
Although most states do not prohibit individuals from removing asbestos materials by themselves, improper abatement could have unexpected and potentially disastrous consequences.
If you, or a loved one, plan to perform asbestos abatement activities, you should be aware of the risks of working with asbestos-based products, as well as local laws governing the removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos in American Homes
Most buildings that were constructed before the mid-1980s were built with asbestos products and materials of some kind.
Many still contain asbestos that can become airborne (and dangerous) from remodeling or demolition.
The Environmental Protection Agency banned most asbestos-containing materials in 1989. However, and in spite of asbestos’s many dangers, the federal government did little to help people who had already purchased and been hurt by asbestos products.
Although nobody knows how many homes remain contaminated by asbestos, some authorities estimate that up to 30 million private residences remain at risk. Experts usually recommend that homeowners presume that asbestos is present in any home that was built before the 1980s.
Today, asbestos can still be found in many common housing materials, often in place that most homeowners never see.
Many people who worked in construction prior to the 1990s and even after may have been exposed to asbestos.
Anyone working in construction may have been exposed to asbestos fibers, especially if they weren’t wearing proper protective gear.
Asbestos-related diseases can take many decades to appear, and if you believe you may have been exposed, speak to your healthcare provider about early warning signs and imaging tests that can help screen for asbestos diseases.screening for asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos can sometimes be found in:
- Steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts;
- Vinyl floor tiles;
- Asphalt and cement-based shingles;
- Cement sheeting;
- Soundproofing materials;
- Wall and exterior paint;
- Adhesive floor glues and compounds;
- Siding; and
- Thermal insulation.
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The Importance of Asbestos Abatement
If you believe that your home may be contaminated by asbestos, you do not have to panic or immediately call an asbestos abatement service. After all, while asbestos is associated with a number of serious medical conditions, it is not inherently dangerous. When asbestos-based products are left undisturbed—trapped behind walls, underneath floors, and inside ceilings—they pose little risk to human health.
However, aged asbestos materials are easily damaged.
Routine renovation work, construction, and demolition projects could unsettle asbestos. When asbestos degrades, it can become “friable,” or easily crumbled. Asbestos is at its most dangerous in a friable form, as it can attach itself to clothing and dissipate into the atmosphere.
Asbestos Home Testing
Since asbestos is difficult to identify without special training, you should consult a local asbestos abatement service or asbestos testing laboratory to confirm the presence of asbestos. Asbestos tests are typically either conducted:
- On-site; or
- By mail.
Typically, on-site asbestos testing costs significantly more money than mail-in test kits. However, you may receive your results faster than you would be mail.
If you purchase an asbestos testing kit, the general process is as follows:
- You will be sent an asbestos testing kit in the mail.
- The testing kit will contain instructions on how to safely collect samples of suspected asbestos materials.
- After you collect the sample, you will mail the kit back to the laboratory and await your results.
While asbestos testing kits pose a convenient and inexpensive alternative to on-site testing, you should exercise extreme caution when handling any suspected asbestos materials.
Ensuring proper health and safety protection during asbestos abatement
You could protect your health by:
- Cordoning the suspected site of contamination;
- Wearing a face-mask, gloves, and disposable work clothes;
- Spraying a thin mist of water over the suspected asbestos material to prevent airborne transmission;
- Collecting the asbestos sample in an airtight, leakproof container;
- Removing your work clothes after collecting the sample; and
- Immediately taking a shower, being careful not to track asbestos elsewhere in the home or work-site.
The Advantages of Professional Asbestos Abatement
If your laboratory sample tests positive, an asbestos abatement serivce may recommend either of the two following solutions:
Encapsulation is typically considered a cost-effective alternative to asbestos removal. During encapsulation, the company will apply a special sealant to asbestos-containing materials. This sealant effectively “encapsulates” asbestos fibers with an “adhesive matrix,” preventing the release of fibers and offsetting the need for removal.
If asbestos cannot be encapsulated or otherwise contained, it may need to be removed from the home and taken to a landfill or recycling center. While asbestos abatement can be time-consuming, it is the only way to completely eliminate asbestos-related risks and decrease homeowner liability.
When encapsulation is not an option, and there are compelling safety reasons to merit removal, asbestos abatement professionals usually follow the following steps to safely remove asbestos materials:
- The asbestos-affected area is sealed off using plastic sheeting.
- High-powered air filters are placed inside the work area, while exhaust ducts are installed outside.
- Once abatement begins, the work area is secured. Residents and other non-authorized persons are prevented from accessing any part of the home where asbestos fibers could be present.
- When working inside the affected area, professionals wear tight-fitting respirators and disposable work clothes to protect themselves.
- The company may perform period, in-progress inspections to ensure that environmental asbestos levels are under control.
- After the abatement is completed, the removed asbestos-containing materials are placed into sealable plastic bags, which are then transported to authorized asbestos landfills or certified asbestos recycling centers.
Determining If You Need an Asbestos Intervention and Possible Abatement
Scientists believe there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
While asbestos is not inherently dangerous when it is left undisturbed, abatement may be necessary if:
- You plan to undertake construction or renovation work.
- Your home has suspected asbestos products that are open and accessible to guests, visitors, and the public.
- You are considering selling your home, since remnant asbestos could lead to a civil personal injury premises liability lawsuit if the purchaser develops any asbestos-related health conditions from undisclosed asbestos materials.
If you may have been exposed to asbestos, speak with your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related damage.
Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH)2
AsbestosClaims.law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information helps you.
If you believe that your home was contaminated with asbestos, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being.
In addition to legal claims, veterans disability, social security and employment protection like workers compensation, FELA and The Jones Act for maritime workers, there are asbestos trusts that have been set up to compensate those harmed by asbestos without having to file a lawsuit.
If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, including testing for exposure or how to file a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190.