Asbestos Removal Safety Procedures
by Contributing Writer
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate fiber used to make fire retardant materials. Because exposure to asbestos has been conclusively linked to lung cancer and other respiratory problems, the removal of asbestos is heavily regulated by both state and federal governments. Improper removal of asbestos can increase the likelihood of excessive exposure, so some states require that the material be removed by a certified professional. Before attempting any asbestos removal, research the laws that apply in your state.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), approximately 1.3 million employees are exposed to significant amounts of asbestos each year. Most of those employees are construction workers who perform renovation or demolition; the rest are people who work for companies that manufacture asbestos-based products such as insulation or textiles.
"Removing" asbestos is a misleading term; Absestos.com, a website dedicated to mesothelioma, the cancer most closely associated with asbestos, prefers the term "abatement" over "removal," because "removal" implies that the danger will be completely eliminated when the material is gone, whereas "abatement" implies that the danger will be decreased. The microscopic fibers that invade the lungs when asbestos is disturbed can linger in the air and collect on surfaces, making absolute removal difficult to achieve.
Before any attempt at asbestos abatement, don a mask approved for this kind of work and close the vents, windows and doors around the area. Duct tape or plastic sheeting can seal off any cracks or crevices through which fibers might escape. Once you've sealed off the area, take steps to minimize the amount of particles that will be released into the air during removal. The most effective way is to spray a mist of water onto both the asbestos-containing product and into the air around the product; the water will cling to the particles and cause them to settle on the ground, thus removing them from the air and decreasing the quantity inhaled. With the material dampened, it's time to begin removal. Try to keep the material as intact as possible; cutting or tearing it will release more fibers into the air.
Disposal of Asbestos
Disposal is regulated just as production and removal are regulated. Asbestos must be disposed of in a landfill that's certified to receive asbestos. Paperwork must be filed with the landfill in advance; when you arrive with the material, it will be immediately buried to prevent the fibers from becoming airborne.