Asbestos Abatement Procedures

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral with a fibrous structure.  It is resistant to heat and corrosion, which once made it a popular part of insulation and other construction materials.  Despite its effectiveness as an insulator, asbestos has ultimately been far more harmful than beneficial.  When the materials containing asbestos become worn or damaged, they can release tiny, needle-like fibers into the air where they can be breathed into the lungs, causing serious respiratory diseases.

Asbestos-Containing Materials

Though use of asbestos in the United States sharply declined in the 1980s, it can still be found in many homes, offices, and other buildings constructed before that time.  Since asbestos was so versatile, it was used in a large number of products and applications.  The EPA lists the most common of these products:

  • Steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts
  • Resilient floor tiles, vinyl floor sheeting, and floor tile adhesives
  • Cement sheet, millboard, and paper insulation
  • Door gaskets in furnaces and stoves
  • Sprayed-on soundproofing or decorative material
  • Patching and joint compounds
  • Textured paints
  • Asbestos cement roofing, shingles, and siding
  • Automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings, and gaskets
  • Vermiculite attic or wall insulation

Because the dangers of asbestos are now widely known, most people who find asbestos in their surroundings are eager to have it removed.  While this is sometimes appropriate, removing the asbestos-containing materials – particularly removing them improperly – can release fibers into the air.  If the materials appear to be in good condition, they may be better left alone.  In some cases, the danger can be neutralized by encasing the materials in plastic or resin to prevent fibers from escaping.

Abatement Licensing

However, damaged, crumbling, or fraying asbestos-containing materials pose a serious health risk.  Individuals who may have such materials in their homes should keep all family members and pets away from the material until it can be tested and, if necessary, removed.  Because of the toxicity of asbestos and the ability of its fibers to slip through many masks and respirators, the federal government requires that asbestos abatement experts be certified in the removal process and have the proper protective gear.

Contractors without special training and licensing should not perform any asbestos removal.  While it is legal for homeowners to remove asbestos themselves, the EPA highly recommends that even minor repairs be performed by a licensed professional.  Removal is expensive and dangerous, since it will necessarily cause fibers to be released into the air, should only be considered as a last resort.