Asbestos is a tricky subject that is often misunderstood. But what is asbestos anyway? And why should you be concerned with it?
The simple fact is that asbestos is a very common component of many building materials from vinyl flooring to wallboard to roofing tar. When you embark on a project that will disturb these materials, extra care must be taken to prevent exposure to asbestos fibers.
Asbestos removal is probably not something you were hoping to deal with in your renovation project, but with a little education and planning, and the right contractor to assist, it is something that can be safely delt with.
A Brief History
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It has a few properties that make it a very good ingredient for many building materials. Most notably, it is very strong and very heat resistant.
For these reasons, it has been used as a binder in many products such as joint compound, vinyl flooring, cement siding, roofing tars, caulks, etc. It is also commonly found in thermal insulation.
Asbestos was often referred to as the miracle mineral in the early 1900s. It was found in many products manufactured through the 1970s, and even into the ’80s and later.
As we became more aware of the health hazards associated with asbestos, it has significantly reduced in usage. Contrary to what many people believe, however, there is no blanket ban on asbestos and it can still be used in the manufacture of certain products today.
The Health Risk
I’m sure you have seen the Meselthelioma commercials. This is the most known disease associated with asbestos.
I’ll give a shot at greatly oversimplifying a complicates subject.
Asbestos is a mineral. It is tiny. It’s also long and skinny, kind of like a torpedo.
When you inhale asbestos fibers, they are drawn into your lungs but they are not able to escape. This leaves the tiny torpedo fibers in your lungs to bounce around. Since they cannot escape, they keep bouncing every time you breathe. Each time they hit your lung, they make a little bit of scar tissue.
Years and years of this action build up more and more scar tissue. This leads to lung disease called Asbestosis.
Mesothelioma is a similar cancerous disease caused by exposure to asbestos.
The Asbestos Exposure Risk
As we already discussed, asbestos is a very common component of building materials. You have most certainly come in contact with asbestos material many times throughout your life.
The buildings you live, work, and play in have asbestos in the floors, walls, and ceilings.
But… exposure is not that simple.
As you walk across a vinyl floor that contains asbestos, those fibers remain securely locked in the material. Remember that their strength is one of the attractive qualities of the mineral.
You can safely live in a home that has asbestos-containing joint compound for many years. The fact that asbestos fibers are present does not mean that you are being exposed.
The exposure risk comes when those materials degrade or are disturbed, causing fiber release.
How To Identify Asbestos
The only way to identify asbestos-containing materials is to take a sample and look at it under a microscope.
A professional asbestos inspector is trained to identify materials that are suspected to contain asbestos and collect the appropriate samples.
The best rule to follow is that all materials should be assumed to contain asbestos unless laboratory testing has shown they do not contain asbestos, or a professional inspector has determined that the material is not suspected to contain asbestos.
When To Remove Asbestos Containing Materials
In general, asbestos removal is not necessary just because a material is identified.
Rather, materials should be considered for asbestos removal if they meet the following criteria:
- They are degraded, crumbling, or otherwise in a condition that could release fibers
- They are scheduled for renovation or demolition
- You have other specific concerns about the presence of asbestos-containing materials
How Asbestos Removal Works
In the state of Georgia, anyone removing asbestos must be licensed by the state. So, your first step is to contact an asbestos removal company.
From there, they will look at your specific case and develop an appropriate protocol for removing the asbestos.
While each scenario is different, they will all share some commonalities.
- All work will be conducted by properly trained and certified workers
- All work will be overseen by a properly trained and certified supervisor
- Work will be conducted under proper containment and negative air pressure (excluding certain circumstances)
- Workers will wear proper personal protective equipment
- Workers will wear respiratory protection appropriate for the class of asbestos removal
- Wet methods will be used to remove asbestos containing materials
- Asbestos containing materials will be bagged and cleaned prior to being removed from the containment area
- The work area will be cleaned and HEPA vacuumed prior to removing containment
- Asbestos containing waste will be properly disposed of
Who To Call
When you are dealing with asbestos removal, it is important to choose a contractor that is a good fit. There are alot of people out there that will remove asbestos for your project. Some will do it well, some will do it cheaply, and some will be the perfect balance for what you need.
At Branch Environmental we believe that you should be an educated customer. We will take the time to break down your situation and lay out your options. When it comes to abatements, we take the trust you put into us seriously.
Our goal is to get the asbestos out so you can get on with your project. All the while, we take the utmost care to eliminate any health risk to future occupants or workers on the project.