One of the main issues surrounding asbestos abatement involves exactly who should be removing asbestos from contaminated locations—is it safe for the average homeowner to remove asbestos themselves, or should a licensed asbestos abatement contractor handle this task? In reality, every homeowner has the legal right to remove asbestos from their homes, as no federal abatement regulations are extended to homeowners. Only owners of commercial and public buildings are required to hire an asbestos abatement professional.
Since it is up to the homeowner to either hire a licensed contractor or remove the asbestos-containing materials themselves, it’s important to know the risks involved with asbestos abatement and exposure to make a safe and educated decision. It might be prudent to look into everything you need to know about asbestos beforehand to make an educated decision on removal. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral once extensively used in a variety of building materials through the late 1970s, and even into the 1980s. Throughout those decades, enormous amounts of evidence proved that asbestos exposure can lead to an array of health problems. Some of these ailments include asbestosis (a persistent and progressive lung disease), lung cancer, and an extremely rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.
Where to Spot Asbestos
Wildly popular material, asbestos products were fitted in nearly every home built prior to 1978. It is important to note asbestos was still utilized in construction after this year, just in much smaller quantities. Typically, asbestos does not pose a health threat unless its fibers are released into the atmosphere, and as such, countless homes built before the 1980s still contain asbestos.
Employed in both indoor and outdoor building materials, asbestos may be lurking in numerous locations throughout older homes. In fact, some exterior asbestos products such as cement siding and roofing materials are still legally allowed to contain asbestos. Other exterior asbestos products that may be found on older homes include, base flashing (weatherproofing material), asbestos siding, shingles, clapboard, roofing felt, and even sand (if made from crushed rock). Indoor uses of asbestos include the following:
o Cement pipes (such as sewer lines and water mains)
o Caulk, putty, and other adhesives
o Ceiling materials (the popular “popcorn ceiling")
o Fuse box linings
o All forms of insulation
o Millboard and rollboard
o Pipe coverings
o Vinyl wall covering
o Plumbing putty
o Vinyl floor, wall, and ceiling tiles
Testing for Asbestos
If you suspect any of these materials may be present in your older home, the next step is to have the material tested for asbestos. It is best to hire an experienced and licensed contractor or home inspector to perform an assessment. These professionals may be able to tell by a visual inspection whether certain products contain asbestos, but this all depends on the material. But even this is not an infallible method, as the only guaranteed way to know if a home is contaminated with asbestos is to have a professional collect samples and have them tested. Samples are sent to a special laboratory where tests will confirm if the material contains asbestos.
Methods of Remediation
First and foremost, to ensure the utmost in safety for yourself and your family, make sure to hire a professional for all asbestos repairs and removal. If replacing the asbestos material(s) is not an affordable option yet, have the contractor seal off the product until thorough removal is a realistic option. However, if the contaminated products become damaged or worn in any way, or become friable or easily crumbled, they must be quickly repaired or replaced.
There are four typical ways to deal with asbestos in domestic homes, and they include enclosure, encapsulation, repair, and removal. Enclosing asbestos-containing material essentially involves the building of a box around the area. This theoretically prevents damaged asbestos particles from entering the atmosphere. This method is not foolproof and extreme care must be taken throughout the construction of the enclosure to make sure asbestos fibers are not disturbed.
Encapsulation sounds a lot like enclosure, but these processes are quite different. This process involves the application of an acrylic substance with a sprayer over the asbestos material. Since the acrylic is sprayed on, asbestos fibers are not disturbed in the process and the acrylic performs as a sealant. Repairing damaged asbestos-containing products presents a severe risk of exposure, as damaged asbestos materials may release deadly fibers during the repair process. This measure is best done by a professional to avoid unnecessary exposure. The same is true concerning removal since this method of remediation presents the greatest threat of asbestos exposure. Hiring an experienced and licensed asbestos abatement contractor will not only offer peace of mind, it may prevent you and your family from being exposed to this deadly substance.
For more resources on asbestos, the various forms of asbestos cancer and other illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos, please visit Asbestos.com.