Even though companies that use asbestos have reduced use in the US from 803,000 tons back in the early 70s to only a few hundred tons today, homeowners, workers, and other people have a chance to come into contact with the carcinogenic mineral. Asbestos, at one time, was used in many varying building materials, consumer goods, and other products because it was cost-effective, strong, and fire-resistant. After a time, adverse health risks were noted to be associated with the use of asbestos which caused the US government to take action, regulate, and even ban the mineral in some situations.
When is Asbestos dangerous?
By far the most common way that asbestos fibers can get into your body is through breathing. Materials that contain asbestos is actually not considered to be harmful unless it is actively releasing dust or fibers into the air where they can enter through inhalation or ingestion. The fibers usually become trapped in your nose and throat where they can then be removed. Some fibers may pass this area and end up deep in your lungs, or if swallowed, into your digestive tract. Once they are trapped in your body, the fibers can cause major health problems.
“Friable” means that the asbestos material is easy to crumble in your hand, which releases fibers into the air. If asbestos is used in spray-on insulation, it is highly friable. Asbestos in floor tiles is not friable.
If asbestos is in ceiling tiles, floor tiles, laboratory cabinet tops, shingles, fire doors, siding, etc. it will NOT release asbestos fibers unless they are damaged or worked on. If you drill or break an asbestos ceiling tile, it has potential to release fibers into the air. If it is left alone after initial installation, it is far less likely to release fibers into the air.
As time is a factor, any damage or deterioration of the asbestos-containing material will increase the friability. Vibrating surfaces, aging, water damage, and impact such as grinding, drilling, cutting, buffing, striking, or sawing can cause the materials to break down making it highly likely for fibers to release into the air.
What are the direct hazards of Asbestos?
The use of asbestos is highly regulated by both the EPA and OSHA as it is recognized as a major health hazard. The fibers released by asbestos which associates with these health hazards are too small to be seen with the naked eye. If asbestos is inhaled, the fibers can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs, which is called asbestosis. This can result in loss of the function of lungs, and it often leads to disability and death. Cancer of the lung, and other diseases such as, mesothelioma of the pleura which is a fatal malignant tumor of the membrane lining the cavity of the lung or stomach is also caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos. There is direct epidemiologic evidence that all asbestos fiber types, including the most common application of asbestos, chrysotile, causes mesothelioma in humans.
How to handle and remove Asbestos.
Coming into contact with any asbestos products or materials can be dangerous, especially if the material is worn or damaged. Our technicians are highly trained to remove the materials and qualify with the right training and certification. A person without the right training certificates should NEVER attempt to remove asbestos-containing materials on their own. Several government organizations have conducted studies, including the EPA and OSHA, and have concluded that there is no safe level of exposure.
If you are thinking about performing any type of renovation or demolition work, it’s important to hire a professional to take samples of materials that may be damaged or broken while the work is being completed. If there are any products where asbestos could have been used, it can potentially contain the mineral and should be classified as dangerous. Our licensed professionals will be able to provide a visual inspection of the area first for any potential hazards and take samples for analysis. Our inspectors will remove small pieces of the materials in question and have them analyzed by a lab to determine their asbestos content.
If our technicians find asbestos, we may recommend complete removal of the materials, also know as abatement, or encapsulation. Most asbestos-containing materials are considered “safe” generally speaking if they’re in good condition, but they should be checked on a regular basis for any signs of wear or other damage. Our technicians that specialize in abatement can determine what actions should be taken, and are trained to remove the materials safely.
Depending on how much risk there is associated with the asbestos exposure, our technicians will suggest whether the materials should be encapsulated, or entirely removed from the work area. If encapsulation is the route taken, the materials in question will be coated with a sealant that will stop the fibers from becoming airborne. If the damage is too severe, and there is a clear health hazard, the materials may need to be completely removed. Removing the material is a bit more expensive than the encapsulation route, but it will completely remove the minerals, and risk, from the area.
There are many federal rules and regulations in place which dictate on how to handle asbestos waste in schools, workplaces, or even at home. While some rules are specific to certain locations or building types, others serve a more general purpose and will have additional rules to offer people full protection from unnecessary exposure.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act was put in place by the EPA to handle asbestos when it’s found in schools, or other learning facilities across the country. All institutions must periodically inspect their facilities for the presence of materials which contain asbestos and are required to have a plan in place to reduce future hazards associated with exposure to the mineral.
In any situation, our technicians are specially trained and certified to assess and potentially remove any asbestos-containing materials in a business, school, or home.
If you feel that your place is at risk for causing exposure to asbestos, please don’t hesitate to reach out today!