You have probably seen the class-action commercials on TV, but how much do you really know about asbestos? Your great-granddad may have been exposed to it on a Navy ship in World War II, or maybe you know someone suffering the effects of exposure after the World Trade Center collapsed. Chances are, you don’t stop to think about asbestos in your everyday life.

As a contractor, it is smart to educate yourself about the health risks of asbestos and the potential fines for improperly disturbing it. Asbestos is a fiber that is found in many common building materials and leads to lung diseases such as Mesothelioma. As these building materials are disturbed during renovation, workers and building occupants can be exposed to asbestos.

Here are five fast-facts every contractor should know about absestos.

1: Asbestos is regulated and enforced by the Georgia DNR Environmental Protection Division

Even if your local building department does not ask for your proof of compliance with asbestos rules, as a contractor in Georgia you are still subject to state regulations and enforcement. It is wise to know what you are dealing with so you are ready if a state inspector stops by your job site.

2: All demolition and certain renovation projects are required to comply with asbestos notification requirements

If you are conducting a demolition or renovation activity you must:

  • Obtain a site survey for asbestos from an accredited inspector.
  • Submit a written notice of your intent to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division on this form. The notice must be submitted for all projects, even if asbestos was not discovered.

These requirements must be followed by any contractor doing any renovation or demolition work. Unlike lead laws, there is no age limit to houses that must be surveyed for asbestos.

3: If asbestos is discovered, a mandatory 10-day waiting period is enforced before demolition can begin

If your site survey reveals regulated asbestos material that will be disturbed during your renovation, you are required to conduct an asbestos abatement prior to beginning the project. In this case, a licensed abatement contractor will submit the notification to the state. A waiting period of 10 business days must pass between the notification and abatement.

If your site survey did not reveal asbestos, you must still submit notification to the GAEPD, but you are not subject to the 10 day waiting period or any fees.

4: Asbestos fibers are found in many common building materials

As a renovation contractor, you routinely disturb materials that may release asbestos fibers into the air. While older homes have a higher likelihood of containing asbestos, there is no cut-off year. There are no regulations that completely prohibit the use of asbestos in manufacturing so any home can potentially contain asbestos fibers.

Some of the most common building materials that contain asbestos are:

  • Drywall and Joint Compound
  • Wall and Ceiling Texture
  • Floor Tiles and Vinyl Floor Coverings
  • Mastics and Adhesives
  • Pipe Insulation
  • Roofing Tar
  • Transite Siding
  • Window Caulk and Glazing

5: Asbestos presents a true risk to you as a contractor, and occupants of the home you are working in

Regulations can often feel burdensome and frivolous. The truth is asbestos fibers produce a very real health hazard when they are released into the air and breathed. Asbestos is the sole cause of Mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the lungs. It also is the source of Asbestosis, a chronic lung disease. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety: “all levels of asbestos exposure studied to date have demonstrated asbestos-related disease”

During the course of a home renovation, tasks such and tearing out drywall can release large volumes of asbestos fibers into the air in the form of dust. The fibers can travel throughout the building and be sucked into HVAC systems. This presents a risk not only to the workers immediately breathing the fibers but to occupants that will return to live and work in the building.