Many popular construction materials of days gone by were made with asbestos. From siding to wall supplies that were the “next big thing,” it was used in many commercial and residential properties. Though they were popular, it was discovered that this material is hazardous to your health. Remember lead paint, adhesives, or even timber treated with chemicals? Even these things are said to be unsafe now. However, nothing can hold the danger that asbestos does. It was mostly used in fireproofing as an insulation material. Consequently, this material is known to cause cancers and respiratory illnesses.
Asbestos is comprised of six minerals that have physical attributes that are similar, yet they are all chemically different. They are robust mineral fibers that occur naturally. They will only melt when exposed to a high temperature. They were once widely used in construction. There are three main types found in remediation projects today, they are:
- Crocidolite: Blue Asbestos
- Amosite: Brown Asbestos
- Chrysotile: White Asbestos
The type of asbestos most associated with illness and death is Crocidolite and Amosite. Many workers have suffered from exposure to them as they were widely used in both lagging and fireproof coatings. Used in asbestos-cement sheeting and corrugated roofing, Chrysotile is the most prevalent. It was also used in ceiling tiles, flooring, and textured coatings like Artex. It is estimated that more than 95 percent of all asbestos in the world is Chrysotile.
The fibrous nature of asbestos materials is what made them so popular, unfortunately, it is also what makes them so dangerous. These spiky fibers get into the tissues of the lungs, causing irritation and the possibility for cancerous growths.
What If My House Has Asbestos?
If you are concerned about your home, anything built before 1980 can be affected. Most homes built prior to this date used asbestos-containing materials. Take for example Artex, it was still being used up until 1984. From cement roofing sheets to rainwater pipes and even cold water cisterns, all of these things can contain asbestos.
Don’t panic. Remember, most products were made from Chrysotile, which is the least dangerous of the three types. However, even if it was used in a hot water tank or in roofing, the ratio would only be about 10 percent asbestos to help strengthen the other 90 percent of materials.
Preparing For Removal
Asbestos is bound in the materials it is used to strengthen. Keep in mind, as long as these materials are not damaged, then the asbestos cannot be released into the air. There is no requirement that states anything with asbestos in it needs to be removed. As long as the product is in good condition, it is safe to leave it be. However, whether you want peace of mind or just want to remodel and remove it, there are a couple ways to go about the process.
Because there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber, you must take the proper precautions. The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), is the amount of exposure that a person can have while in the workforce. While at home, you don’t have the luxury of someone measuring the air quality and keeping things safe as you must do that yourself. Ask yourself these questions before starting this journey:
- Is the asbestos broken or damaged?
- Are there any alternatives to removing it?
- Can I do it myself and comply with the safety regulations?
- Do I need a licensed removal specialist?
Once you have determined that it is time to move forward, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. First, never use power tools in your removal process. Second, no abrasive cutting measures or use of sanders or disks. Next, be sure that you don’t use an air compressor or any other high-pressure hoses. Never walk on corrugated asbestos cement roofs as you can easily fall through. Make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling the fibers. Lastly, by keeping the materials wet while you work, you will keep the fibers from releasing into the atmosphere.
Beginning The Removal Process
Now you are ready to start the removal process. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations. The highest risk materials are insulation boards or those materials that have gone up in sprayed coatings. They need to be handled by a licensed contractor. The risk with these materials is higher than other forms of asbestos. You must enclose and encapsulate the area to avoid issues. Here are some other pieces of equipment you will need:
First and foremost, you will need a breathing apparatus and protective clothing to begin this type of job. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is necessary to take on this challenge. You must have a mask that allows you to breathe without inhaling the dangerous fibers. These masks come in all sizes and prices. While it may be tempting to run to the local hardware store and pick up drywall masks, also called dust masks, these will not be sufficient.
A respirator style of mask is a bit more expensive, but they provide premium protection. When it comes to your breathing, paying a little more is well worth it. You can get the full-face or half-face respirator. If you have glasses, it will provide some protection from the fibers getting into your eyes. A full face is your best bet, if you can stand having your face covered.
> Safety Suit
A full abatement suit is essential to keep the fibers from getting on your clothes and being transferred into your home. Though you may feel a little space-age with the gear, it will be providing you with much-needed protection. The suits are very inexpensive and come in all sizes.
> Air Quality Monitor
Asbestos area air samples are the best way to make sure that you are not leaking fibers into the air around you. These machines are quite costly. You should rent one from a hardware or tool supply store. There are some lower cost models, but they are still hundreds of dollars. Don’t skip this step thinking that it is not necessary. This machine could save your lungs.
> Disposal Materials
You cannot just throw asbestos products into the local trash. You must take them to a special place for dumping. You will need to find out where your local dumping grounds are for hazardous materials. You must have special bags that protect the fibers from going airborne. Also, the bags must clearly be marked “asbestos.” This is for your protection and anyone else who handles the bag after you.
Protecting Your Home
As you can see, asbestos removal is quite extensive and expensive. It is not something that you will be able to accomplish overnight. Take your time, and make sure you do things right. Part of doing things right means having the right equipment. If you have any questions or doubts about the process, then call in professional help.