In terms of asbestos exposure, the occupations most at risk are demolition and wrecking crews. While most employment today involves working in and around buildings that adhere to modern regulations, demolition and wrecking crews are often required to destroy older structures laden with harmful chemicals and minerals that have long since been outlawed by the government. As asbestos is most dangerous when it is friable and inhaled, it is easy to see why a demolition crew may be at an increased risk every time it completes a project.
Demolition & Wrecking Crews and Asbestos
When structures are demolished, they release particles into the air from every substance contained within. As a result, many older structures which used asbestos for everything from insulation to pipe lagging become a potential hazard the moment they are disturbed. Asbestos, once thought to be a miracle material, was also used in cement siding, wall boards, tiles, fireproofing, linoleum, drywall, ceilings, fire brick, patching compounds, paints and gaskets. Asbestos was also used in electrical wiring to prevent fires and electrocution. Its uses were nearly endless. As a highly durable mineral, asbestos can also travel when its fibers attach to skin, hair, and clothes. This can result in secondary exposure to family members and loved ones.
There are two forms of asbestos: friable and non- friable. As a non-friable solid, asbestos is perfectly safe. However, if the material is broken or crushed, the asbestos fibers are then considered friable, or capable of release into the air, at which point they can be inhaled. While asbestos can be made friable by gradual deterioration, the process is exacerbated during demolition or renovation where entire plumes of asbestos can be released into air in the wreckage.
Individuals working on a demolition or wrecking crew should be aware of the hazards of asbestos exposure. In fact, many states have now adopted measures to make sure that buildings are inspected for asbestos prior to demolition or renovation as a precaution. By making sure that all asbestos is removed from a site before any work is performed, workers can avoid the long term damages and disease that such exposure inflicts.