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What Everyone Should Know About Asbestos

Asbestos material that is disturbed by handling, hitting, rubbing, or exposed to airflow or extreme vibration can be hazardous. It is important to limit access to any area where there is damaged asbestos. Also, do not touch or disturb the material any further. If damaged asbestos is suspected people are educated to contact their local environmental or public health officials for the proper testing and removal procedure.

It is important for people to test for asbestos before remodeling. Unless there is specific labeling, they should know that they cannot identify asbestos by looking at it. It is recommended to have a professional test for asbestos. If sampling is not done correctly it can create a larger hazard by releasing asbestos fibers into the air. Only material that is actually going to be disturbed needs to be tested.

As you can see the most important fact stated about asbestos is to leave it alone. Precautions need to be made to avoid disturbing asbestos containing materials, and testing and removal needs to be done by professionals.

Where Would You Find Asbestos?

Acoustical Plaster
Asphalt Floor tile Attic Insulation (Vermiculate)
Base Flashing
block etc)
Blown-in Insulation
Boiler Insulation
Breeching Insulation
Carpet, ceiling tile, etc.
Ceiling Tiles and Lay-in Panels
Cement Pipes
Cement Siding
Cement Wallboard
Construction Mastics (floor tile)
Cooling Towers
Decorative Plaster
Ductwork Flexible Fabric connections
Electric Wiring Insulation
Electrical Cloth
Electrical Panel Partitions
Elevator Brake Shoes
Elevator Equipment Panels
Fire Blankets
Fire Curtains
Fire Doors
Fireproofing Materials Taping Compounds (Thermal)
Flooring Backing
Heating & Electrical Ducts
High Temperature Gaskets
HVAC Duct Insulation
Joint Compounds
Laboratory Gloves
Laboratory Hoods/Table Tops
Packing Materials (for wall/floor penetrations)
Pipe Insulation (corrugated, air-cell)
Roofing Felt
Roofing Shingles
Spackling Compounds
Spray-Applied Insulation
Textured Paints/Coatings
Thermal Paper Products
Vinyl Floor tile
Vinyl Sheet Flooring
Vinyl Wall Coverings

What To Do About Asbestos In Buildings?

There are basically four options:

  1. Label It
    Leave the asbestos intact (but labelled) if it is in good condition, unlikely to be disturbed and unable to feed fibres into workers' breathing zones.
  2. Enclose It
    Enclose the asbestos so that disturbance of the asbestos material and entry into the enclosure is not possible.
  3. Seal It
    Encapsulate (or deep seal) the asbestos, if it is in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed.
  4. Remove It
    Remove the asbestos if its surface is damaged or crumbling, or it is likely to be disturbed for example by maintenance work.

Removal of asbestos obviously eliminates the hazard forever - provided it is done with the best control procedures, with competent removal experts, good supervision and a well informed workforce. But often this is not the case in practice.

Asbestos Removal and Sealing

Reducing exposure to asbestos by repairing damaged material will involve covering the material or sealing it. Sealing is commonly used for pipe, furnace, and boiler insulation. The sealing process either coats the material, reducing fiber release, or binds the fibers together. A covering can be used instead of sealant, also preventing the release of fibers. Both these methods are relatively cheap when compared with removal, but future removal may still be necessary. Another technology used in reducing exposure to asbestos is personal protective equipment. Respirators with HEPA filters should be worn when working with asbestos, in addition to other controls.

Removal is the most expensive method of dealing with asbestos, and it also has the greatest risk involved, due to the large number of fibers that may possibly released in removing it. The most common way to reduce asbestos emissions during renovation, demolition, cutting or stripping of asbestos material is to use a wetting agent throughout to keep asbestos from becoming airborne. It is important that the material is adequately wet to prevent release. There are different wetting techniques for different types of material. The material should be sealed in containers after removal. A HEPA filter vacuum is essential for cleaning. It is important to never use a vacuum without HEPA filter; it will just spread the asbestos. Portable air ventilation systems can be used to protect workers from asbestos. Enclosure equipment is often used when working on brakes, to separate the worker from asbestos; the wet method is also used for brakes.

Today's technology makes it possible to monitor for asbestos, keep asbestos exposure below permissible limits, and remove the hazard. It protects the health of many people who would otherwise be exposed.

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