Protective gear is not the only resource a licensed asbestos abatement firm will have at its disposal. Professionals will also own the proper equipment to encapsulate or remove asbestos without putting themselves or the building’s inhabitants at unnecessary risk.
Wetting the Materials
Asbestos becomes dangerous when the materials containing it crumble and tiny, needle-like fibers are released into the air. To prevent this from happening, abatement contractors will almost certainly have some type of water pump to keep the materials wet and the asbestos fibers out of the air. This can be as simple as a hand-held spray bottle for small jobs or as complex as an industrial mist machine for larger containment areas.
Specialized Vacuum Filters
Though homeowners should never attempt to vacuum up crumbling asbestos material for fear of disturbing the fibers and kicking up toxic dust, professional abatement teams will have special vacuum cleaners to remove this material. These vacuums are fitted with special high efficiency particle arrestor (HEPA) filters, which will trap even the tiny asbestos fibers and prevent them from circulating in the air.
Note that some sources, such as the U.K. Health and Safety Executive, caution that domestic vacuum cleaners, even those fitted with HEPA filters, are never sufficient for cleaning asbestos waste, and a special machine must be used. Vacuuming wet material can damage the filters, so great care must be taken when cleaning up dry asbestos-containing materials to prevent the spread of dust.
Negative Air Machines
In addition to misting and vacuuming equipment, the contractor will likely make use of a negative air machine, particularly if the project is a major one. Since air always flows from areas of greater pressure to areas of lower pressure, creating a low pressure environment in the asbestos containment area will ensure that air flows into the room, rather than out, where it could spread asbestos contamination throughout the structure. The machine should also contain a HEPA filter so that the air from the containment area, when it is vented, will not pose a health threat.
Specialized vacuum cleaners and negative air machines, though necessary to keep risk of asbestos exposure as low as possible, cost hundreds of dollars to purchase. While licensed asbestos contractors may be expensive, if it has been determined that removal is necessary, these professionals have the equipment and training to ensure that the building’s residents remain safe. However, asbestos removal is generally only considered as a last resort, if it has been determined that encapsulation or enclosure of asbestos-containing materials are insufficient.