Asbestos Removal – Abatement

If you own a property that contains asbestos, removal is not a simple task. Asbestos is an extremely dangerous material that breaks down into microscopic fibers that are easily and unknowingly ingested or inhaled, leading to devastating health effects in the future. Whether you are dealing with your home or your business, it is always best to consult an asbestos abatement specialist about removal. Though your first instinct may be to remove it from your property you may find that leaving it intact, in place and protected against damage is the smartest option. In most locales throughout the United States, there are specific guidelines and requirements regarding the proper way to remove and dispose of asbestos, and it is a good idea to contact your state’s branch of the Environmental Protection Agency to find out what laws may apply to your situation.

Learning that Asbestos is Present

Most people are surprised to learn that asbestos is present in their building, but the material was commonly used in construction prior to the 1980s. Though it is natural to be alarmed upon learning that asbestos is in your immediate environment, it is also important to understand that it is only dangerous when its fibers are released into the air. Asbestos that is in place and sealed does not present a health risk and is often best left alone unless it needs to be disturbed for a renovation or construction project. The best way to assess the danger is to ask a professional: a licensed asbestos abatement company will understand your concerns and advise you on the best way to address the situation.

Handling Asbestos on Your Own

Most health professionals strongly advise against property owners attempting to remove asbestos on their own. Asbestos abatement is a complex process that requires special training and certification designed to minimize risk, and there is no comparison between the expense of hiring a professional versus the medical expenses and lifelong impact that result from contracting an asbestos-related disease. Additionally, doing an asbestos removal project on your own or hiring people who are not trained in asbestos removal exposes you to legal liability for their exposure to the deadly carcinogen.

If you choose to take on an asbestos removal project without the help of a professional, the first thing that you need to do is make sure that you have appropriate protective gear. The single most important protection you can provide yourself with is a respirator and ventilation system that will effectively screen out any microscopic asbestos fibers that may be floating in the air. Professionals suggest using a double-canister HEPA filter mask, as well as protective covering for your clothes that can be bagged and disposed of after exposure. Do not assume that you can simply launder asbestos fibers from your clothing after you’ve been working with the deadly material. Even a small amount of asbestos tracked into your home can cause a significant health risk for those around you.

Preparing Asbestos for Removal

One of the most effective ways to minimize the risk of asbestos particles becoming airborne is to keep the asbestos-contaminated material wet. Asbestos abatement professionals have special equipment that they use to dampen debris. They also recommend that contaminated materials be kept as intact as possible: the more a piece of asbestos-contaminated material is broken down, the greater the risk of airborne debris being inhaled.

Any area that is being worked on should be shut off as much as possible from other areas. All items that do not need to be in the room should be removed to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Tarps can be used to block dust from entering adjacent rooms and hallways and plastic can be taped over windows and door openings. Though the work area should be ventilated, any ducts leading into the area where asbestos removal is taking place should be covered in order to prevent it from entering the rest of the building.

Equipment for the Removal of Asbestos

Asbestos abatement professionals use vacuums equipped with HEPA filters to remove any asbestos fibers that have been released onto surfaces where abatement has taken place. Power tools are generally not recommended, as they tend to produce higher quantities of dust than hand tools do.

Removing Asbestos

Any asbestos-contaminated materials must be sealed into double bags in order to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne outside of the area. These bags must be labeled as containing hazardous materials. Your local community may have regulations regarding the transport and disposal of asbestos debris.

After Exposure to Asbestos

If you have been exposed to asbestos dust, it is essential that you take the decontamination process seriously with reference to the work area, your clothing, and your body. All surfaces need to be thoroughly cleaned using wet rags and those rags need to be disposed of. The same is true for drop cloths and plastic tarps that have been used to prevent contamination, and all protective clothing: they should be disposed of in the same way that the asbestos material that was the object of the abatement was.

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