When dealing with asbestos, people often have various questions related to the various health hazards and regulatory complexities it is associated with. This FAQ is meant to be a starting point for anyone wondering why asbestos has been a hot-button issue for decades.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals with long, thin fibers known for their heat resistance and durability. Due to these properties, asbestos was widely used in various building materials and products, including insulation, roofing, and flooring. However, prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to serious respiratory diseases, making its identification and proper management crucial for public health and safety.

Where is Asbestos Found?

Most asbestos is found in older buildings and structures. Asbestos was historically used in various building materials, including:

  • Insulation
  • Flooring & tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Roofing materials
  • Some cement products
  • Pipes
  • Brake pads (auto parts)

Asbestos was used for many other things as well. If you own or manage an older facility that hasn’t been screened for asbestos, you should arrange for an asbestos assessment of your building or home.  An asbestos abatement contractor may be able to assist you to make those arrangements and to provide additional information.

Is Asbestos Still Used Today?

While many countries have banned or restricted the use of asbestos, it may still be present in older buildings and certain products. Recycled asbestos is still used for very specific purposes in a few industries. Asbestos is not used in construction today, however.

Isn’t Asbestos Illegal?

Not at all! In fact, it is still perfectly legal in the United States to purchase asbestos and manufacture products using asbestos. Although most companies have discontinued its use due to health concerns, many products that contain asbestos can still be found in stores today, including floor tile, brake pads, and other building materials.

Wasn’t All Asbestos Removed a Long Time Ago?

Unfortunately, no. Asbestos really is a miracle mineral. It is fireproof, heatproof, chemical-proof, waterproof, flexible, and extremely strong! As such, it was added to virtually every building material before its negative health effects became widespread knowledge in the late 1970s.

As a rule of thumb, any material that is not wood or metal is suspected as an asbestos-containing material (ACM). And removing it safely can be expensive. So, any structure built before 1980 or so, including schools, is likely still loaded with asbestos– including your house! But don’t worry — most asbestos materials are harmless unless they are not handled properly and are disturbed or turned into dust.

What health risks are associated with asbestos exposure?

Asbestos exposure is linked to serious respiratory diseases, including:

  • Lung cancer
  • Asbestosis
  • Mesothelioma

There is an extremely strong connection between asbestos exposure and these conditions.

How Do I Identify ACMs in My Home?

It is nearly impossible to identify asbestos-containing materials without proper training and professional tools. If you have recently bought, started to rent, or started to manage an older building or home you will want to consult with an asbestos abatement specialist.

What Should I Do if I Suspect Asbestos in My Home or Workplace?

If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home or workplace, seek guidance on the appropriate steps to take by contacting a professional for testing and removal.

Can I Perform Asbestos Abatement Myself?

Although you are not currently legally prohibited from removing asbestos from your own property, the chances are great you would create health and safety risks and you could be exposed to legal trouble if you do not do it properly.  Professional assistance with asbestos removal is highly recommended (basically essential). Removing and disposing of asbestos is a delicate process that requires knowledge and tools the vast majority of people will not have access to.  And, removed asbestos must be disposed of properly.  The professionals who perform all of those tasks are specially trained and licensed to perform that work. If you need asbestos removal, please, seek help!

What Regulations Effect Asbestos Removal?

Questions about local, state, or national regulations that comply with legal requirements for asbestos management and removal can vary greatly. If you have questions regarding the most recent federal and state regulations on asbestos, please contact an asbestos abatement professional.

How Much Does Asbestos Removal Cost?

The cost of asbestos assessments and abatement can vary widely depending on several factors, including the extent of asbestos contamination, the type of materials involved, the location of the asbestos, and local market conditions.  As you would expect, these costs typically are less for a normal-sized house.  Larger commercial, industrial or school projects, however, may incur significantly higher costs. It is essential to obtain abatement quotes from licensed asbestos abatement professionals after a thorough inspection to get an accurate estimate tailored to the specific circumstances of the site.

Can I Renovate a Building with Asbestos?

Renovating a building that contains asbestos or ACMs is possible–but asbestos abatement must take precedence over other areas of the remodel. Remodeling a home or renovating a building that contains asbestos or ACMs is not safe until the asbestos has been removed.

How Long Does It Take to Complete Asbestos Removal?

The duration of asbestos abatement can vary depending on the size and complexity of the project, as well as the amount of asbestos present. On average, a residential asbestos abatement project may take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Larger and more intricate commercial or industrial projects can extend the timeline to several weeks or even months.

Factors influencing the duration include the extent of asbestos contamination, the type of materials involved, the accessibility of the asbestos-containing materials, and the specific abatement methods employed. It is crucial to work with licensed asbestos abatement professionals who can provide a detailed timeline based on a thorough assessment of the site.

What Precautions Should be Taken During Asbestos Removal?

During asbestos removal, strict precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of exposure to asbestos fibers. Hiring licensed abatement specialists is the best way to ensure a safe removal process. Here are some key precautions every compliant asbestos abatement contractor will follow during the abatement process:

  • Use of Proper Protective Equipment
  • Containment Measures
  • Proper Disposal
  • Air Monitoring
  • Decontamination Procedures
  • Notification and Compliance
  • Post-Removal Clearance Testing

Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources

It is essential to consult with asbestos removal professionals and follow local regulations to assess the specific risks and costs associated with your situation. If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your property, the issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos, lead and other regulated substance information, remediation, or removal, or if you have general questions regarding environmental regulations, check the resources below:

Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Members

IECA Common Questions & Answers

Illinois Environmental Organizations & Related Agencies

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