The production of most types of asbestos has been illegal in the United States for over 40 years. But the toxic footprint left by common asbestos use still lingers to this day. This is especially true for buildings constructed prior to the 1980s, although there is no official cutoff date for all asbestos in buildings. Common asbestos-containing building materials found in older buildings include flooring and other finishes, insulation material, fire proofing, roofing products, wall and ceiling materials, and adhesives.
Exposure to Asbestos is Extremely Dangerous
The process of removing or mitigating the effects caused by this mineral is called asbestos abatement, but the first step is inspection of the suspect material for the presence of asbestos and determining the level of hazard associated.
Asbestos abatement does not always necessitate removal, because when asbestos is undisturbed and intact, it can often be kept in place with minimal risk of exposure. If there is enough risk present or the asbestos-containing building materials will be impacted by renovation or demolition, a work plan to safely abate the substance needs to be prepared before removing or otherwise handling this toxic substance.
It’s crucial to employ experienced professionals to avoid harm to workers or anyone occupying the building.
Steps to Take to Minimize Asbestos Exposure
If you suspect asbestos-containing building materials on your property, first contact an industrial hygiene firm to provide a licensed inspector to test the suspect material. They will inform you if there is asbestos present in the building by providing a written evaluation detailing where the mineral was found, the extent of its presence, and recommendations for mitigation.
Your industrial hygiene firm should be independent of the abatement contractor to avoid the conflicting interests. If it is determined that ACBM is present and remediation is needed, the industrial hygiene firm will prepare an abatement work plan to be used to solicit bids from qualified asbestos abatement contractors.
Finding an experienced asbestos abatement contractor is important; they must be certified and familiar with the local, state, and federal laws of abatement. The contractor should be licensed by the state in which they are working.
The Asbestos Abatement Process
Your abatement contractor will be following a plan set out by the industrial hygienist. It should provide details on how the area will be treated, including the preparation and cleanup process. The work plan should detail all local, state, and federal laws the abatement contractor must abide by during asbestos abatement.
Proper Asbestos Abatement Demarcation
Once the plan is in place, your contractors must clearly mark the hazardous area and inform all building occupants to leave the area until completion and clearance testing is performed.
Setting up a Regulated Abatement Work Area
Air ducts should be sealed, the HVAC system must be disabled, and any areas not being treated should be securely sealed off with thick plastic sheets along with air pressure differential and filtration. The industrial hygiene firm should inspect the work area preparation prior to the abatement contractor starting actual asbestos removal or repair work.
Removing Hazardous Materials
The abatement contractor will utilize hand tools and wet methods to remove or repair the asbestos-containing building materials. During the process, the contractors will wear protective clothing and respirators to protect themselves.
The asbestos-containing building materials will be placed into waste disposal bags, sealed, and removed through a decontamination unit designed with a protective lining. They will also establish a decontamination chamber, adjacent to the work area containment, with a shower to be used for exiting the work area.
High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Vacuuming
Special vacuums with HEPA filtration intended for asbestos removal work will be used to minimize dispersing of asbestos fibers during the work and for cleaning of surfaces.
Final Cleaning & Inspection
The final work step after all ACBM in the work area has been removed (or repaired depending on the project) and all work area surfaces have been fully cleaned with wet methods and HEPA vacuuming. An industrial hygiene firm should perform their independent inspection and also conduct clearance air sampling pursuant to state and federal requirements. The work area barriers and air filtration should not be removed until the clearance testing is complete, and the work area meets the clearance criteria set forth in the abatement work plan.
After the clearance criteria is met, the abatement contractor should remove the work area containment barriers and reclean the work area using HEPA vacuuming once again. Upon final completion, you should receive a report from your abatement contractor containing waste shipment records, permits, site logs, and copies of all licensing. You should also receive a report from your industrial hygiene firm including copies of inspection results and laboratory analysis. These records must be kept for compliance with environmental regulations.
How to Find an Asbestos Abatement Contractor Near You
Asbestos removal plans should meet all state and federal regulations to ensure the job is being done correctly. Contractors should also be able to provide references from other customers, as well as proof of workers’ certifications.
Before any renovation or demolition on an older building, owners should consider contacting an asbestos professional for testing. Safe handling and removal of asbestos can prevent exposure and ensure proper disposal.
For more information on finding a local contractor, check the resources below:
- Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Members
- IECA Common Questions & Answers
- Illinois Environmental Organizations & Related Agencies
If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our associates to find an answer to your situation. With more than 40 Illinois-licensed companies represented by IECA members, we believe that collective action through association is the most effective way to deal with the changing demands of doing business.Tags: Abatement, Asbestos, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, Recommendations, Worksite Cleanup