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Why Is Asbestos Abatement Important?

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Author: ACTenviro
Date: May 31, 2024

Simple---to keep you safe and healthy. 

Asbestos has always been a popular building material. Lately, however, it has been labeled as a hazardous substance. It can seriously imperil human and environmental health.

If you live in an old house or work in an old building lined with asbestos, you might need to have the asbestos removed. But this is not something that you should do yourself. That's because contact with asbestos can be quite dangerous.

Asbestos abatement is a process that needs special skills and equipment. In this article, we will learn more about its importance, the specific remediation process, how much it costs, and more. We will also discuss the dangers of asbestos exposure as well as its interesting facts.

What is Asbestos Abatement

In the construction industry, you might have heard of asbestos as a building material. Asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals composed of long, thin fibrous crystals. These fibers resist heat, fire, chemical, and biological degradation. This makes asbestos a popular insulation and building material in various industries, from building construction to consumer goods.

Unfortunately, asbestos is considered a hazardous material. The UK, EU, Japan, Australia, and Canada have completely banned the use of asbestos. The US has implemented a partial ban on asbestos. In developing countries, asbestos is still regularly used. 

Due to its hazardous nature, it needs to be controlled. What is asbestos abatement? These are procedures and actions taken to remove, encapsulate, or control asbestos-containing materials in a building to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne and posing a health risk to occupants. 

Why You Should Consider Asbestos Abatement

If your home or workplace was built before the 1980s, the structure may contain asbestos. As such, you should consider asbestos abatement.

Asbestos abatement, or asbestos remediation, is done to protect human health, increase safety, and ensure regulatory compliance. 

1. Health Protection

  • Asbestos fibers, when inhaled, can cause severe health issues including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. The problem is that these diseases have long latency periods. Symptoms can take decades to appear after exposure to asbestos.
  • Children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions are especially vulnerable to the effects of asbestos exposure.

2. Regulatory Compliance

  • Many developed countries have stringent regulations regarding the handling and disposal of asbestos material. Hefty fines, legal liabilities, and even criminal charges await those who do not comply with these regulations. Some countries even ban the use of asbestos.
  • Employers are legally required to provide safe working conditions, which include managing asbestos hazards.

3. Environmental Safety

  • If not properly managed, asbestos fibers can contaminate soil and water sources
  • Ensuring that asbestos waste is disposed of correctly in designated facilities prevents environmental pollution.

4. Property Value and Marketability

  • Properties with a known presence of asbestos issues can lose value. By removing asbestos, the property can maintain or even increase its value because it meets health and safety standards.
  • Potential buyers are often wary of properties with asbestos because of the associated health risks and asbestos abatement costs. 

5. Safety During Renovations or Demolitions

  • During renovations or demolitions, materials that contain asbestos can be disturbed, releasing the hazardous fibers into the air. Proper abatement ensures these activities can proceed safely.
  • Addressing asbestos issues proactively can be more cost-effective than dealing with emergencies or regulatory penalties later.

6. Long-Term Savings

  • By addressing asbestos issues now, you can avoid the higher costs associated with health care, legal fees, and extensive remediation efforts in the future.
  • Some insurance policies may offer better terms or reduced premiums for properties that have undergone asbestos abatement.

How Does Asbestos Abatement Work

a man on PPE working up on a wall

The removal of asbestos involves a specific process that calls for the utmost care and expertise. It is not something you should attempt on your own because it needs specific skills, processes, and tools. You need professional asbestos abatement contractors for industrial cleaning like ACTenviro to perform this process safely and correctly.

1. Inspection and Assessment

  • Initial Survey: A licensed asbestos inspector conducts a thorough inspection of the property to identify the presence and condition of asbestos-containing materials (ACM). Asbestos testing may involve visual inspections and collecting samples for laboratory analysis.
  • Risk Assessment: After the structure is tested for asbestos, the inspector evaluates the potential risk of fiber release and exposure based on his findings. This helps determine the required scope of the abatement.

2. Planning and Preparation

  • Abatement Plan: An abatement plan is developed, outlining the methods and procedures for safely removing the asbestos. The plan includes details on the type of abatement (removal, encapsulation, or enclosure), protective measures, and waste disposal procedures.
  • Regulatory Compliance: The plan must comply with local, state, and federal regulations governing asbestos handling and disposal. 

3. Containment

  • Isolation of the Area: Plastic sheeting is used to seal the work area, and negative air pressure systems are utilized to prevent asbestos fibers from spreading to other parts of the building. Airlocks and decontamination units are set up at entry and exit points.
  • Protective Equipment: Workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, coveralls, gloves, and safety goggles to protect themselves from exposure to asbestos fibers.

4. Abatement Process

  • Removal: The actual cleaning involves physically removing the asbestos or materials that may contain asbestos from the building. The professional asbestos abatement company uses specialized tools and techniques to remove ACMS to minimize fiber release. The removed materials are carefully placed in leak-tight containers or bags.
  • Encapsulation: A sealant is applied to the ACMs to bind the asbestos fibers and prevent them from becoming airborne. Encapsulation is used when removing ACMs is not feasible. 
  • Enclosure: Airtight barriers are built around ACMs to prevent fiber release. Building enclosures are used when ACMs are in good condition and not likely to be disturbed.

5. Decontamination

  • Cleaning the Area: The work area is thoroughly cleaned using HEPA vacuums and wet wiping methods to remove any residual asbestos fibers. Contaminated materials are sealed and labeled for disposal.
  • Worker Decontamination: Workers go through a decontamination process, which includes showering and changing into clean clothes before leaving the containment area.

6. Waste Disposal

  • Packaging: Asbestos waste is packaged in labeled, leak-tight containers or bags. 
  • Transport and Disposal: Asbestos waste is transported to designated disposal sites licensed to handle hazardous materials. 

7. Post-Abatement Verification

  • Air Monitoring: Air quality tests are conducted to ensure that asbestos fiber levels are within safe limits. This involves taking air samples from the work area and analyzing them in a laboratory.
  • Final Inspection: A final inspection is performed to confirm that the abatement was successful, and that the area is safe for re-occupancy. 

Estimated Cost of Asbestos Abatement

Asbestos abatement costs can vary significantly based on several factors. Here’s an overview of what to expect when budgeting for asbestos abatement. Note that these are general figures; actual figures can vary on different factors and different asbestos abatement companies.

Factors Affecting Cost

  1. Type of abatement
    • Inspection and Testing: Initial inspection and testing usually cost between $200 and $800.
    • Encapsulation: Applying sealant to ACMs generally costs $2 to $6 per square foot.
    • Enclosure: Building a barrier around ACMs can cost $8 to $20 per square foot.
    • Removal: Full removal of ACMs is the most expensive option, typically ranging from $20 to $150 per square foot.
  2. Size of the area
    • The larger the area requiring abatement, the higher the total cost. Costs are usually computed per square foot.
  3. Type and condition of ACMs
    • Different types of ACMs (e.g., insulation, floor tiles, roofing materials) may require different abatement methods, which affect cost.
    • Deteriorating or damaged ACMs might require more intensive work, which increases the cost.
  4. Complexity of the project
    • Projects in difficult-to-reach areas or requiring extensive containment and decontamination measures can be more costly.
    • Buildings with intricate architectural features or historical significance may also incur higher costs.
  5. Regulatory requirements
    • Filing permits and incorporating additional safety measures in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations can add to the cost.
  6. Location
    • Costs can vary based on regional differences in labor and material costs. Urban areas tend to have higher prices compared to rural areas.

Example Cost Estimates

  1. Small residential project (e.g., single room, 100 square feet)
    • Inspection and Testing: $200 to $500
    • Encapsulation: $200 to $600
    • Enclosure: $800 to $2,000
    • Removal: $2,000 to $15,000
  2. Medium residential project (e.g., multiple rooms, 500 square feet)
    • Inspection and Testing: $500 to $800
    • Encapsulation: $1,000 to $3,000
    • Enclosure: $4,000 to $10,000
    • Removal: $10,000 to $75,000
  3. Large Commercial Project (e.g., office building, 5,000 square feet):
    • Inspection and Testing: $1,000 to $3,000
    • Encapsulation: $10,000 to $30,000
    • Enclosure: $40,000 to $100,000
    • Removal: $100,000 to $750,000

Additional Costs

  • Permits and Fees: Permits and regulatory fees may add to the overall cost.
  • Air Monitoring and Clearance Testing: Making sure that the air is safe after abatement can add another $200 to $1,200.
  • Waste Disposal: Proper disposal of asbestos waste can cost $10 to $50 per cubic yard.

Regulations and Standards for Asbestos Removal

a person wearing PPE tying an Asbestos waste plastic bag

In the US, the standards, guidelines, and regulations for asbestos remediation are handled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These regulations are strictly enforced to ensure public safety and environmental protection. 

  • Standards:
    • 29 CFR 1910.1001: General Industry Standard for Asbestos
    • 29 CFR 1926.1101: Construction Industry Standard for Asbestos
  • Details: These standards specify permissible exposure limits (PELs), requirements for exposure assessments, medical surveillance, and worker training.
  • Resources: OSHA Asbestos Standards

Dangers of Asbestos

The most worrisome issue is that asbestos fibers can easily remain in the body indefinitely. It gradually damages the body and increases the risk of getting cancer. Asbestos-related diseases typically have long latency periods, often developing 10 to 50 years after initial exposure. 

Let's check out some of the health hazards of asbestos exposure: 

1. Asbestosis: A chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, leading to scarring of lung tissue. Asbestosis can progress over time, leading to severe respiratory issues.

2. Mesothelioma: A rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis with most patients surviving only a few months to a few years after diagnosis.

3. Lung cancer: Cancer that forms in lung tissues. Asbestos-induced lung cancer is aggressive and difficult to treat, which leads to high mortality rates.

4. Other Cancers: Asbestos exposure is also associated with cancers of the larynx, ovaries, and gastrointestinal tract.

5. Pleural Plaques and Pleural Thickening: A condition involving the thickening or calcification of the lining of the lungs. These conditions can impair lung function, causing chest pain and breathing difficulties.

Risk Factors

  • Occupational Exposure: Workers in construction, shipbuilding, automotive, and other industries with a history of asbestos use are at the highest risk from the threat of asbestos.
  • Environmental Exposure: Individuals living near asbestos mines or factories or in buildings containing deteriorating ACMs, can also be exposed. 
  • Secondary Exposure: Family members of workers exposed to asbestos may be at risk due to toxic asbestos fibers brought home on clothing and personal items.

Facts About Asbestos

As hazardous as it is, asbestos is still used in many industries and countries thanks to its properties. Here are some interesting facts about asbestos. 

  • Natural Mineral: Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals composed of thin, fibrous crystals. Chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite are the most common types of asbestos. Other types include tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. 
  • Historical Use: Asbestos has been used for thousands of years. Archaeological and anthropological evidence suggests that it was first used in ancient Greece. It was widely utilized in the 19th and 20th centuries in the construction and shipbuilding industries. 
  • Properties: Asbestos is fire resistant. It is also an excellent insulator. 
  • Widespread Applications: Asbestos is used in a variety of products, including insulation materials, roofing shingles, floor tiles, cement products, automotive brake linings, and textiles.
  • Asbestos in Buildings: Many older buildings still contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Common places include insulation around pipes and boilers, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roofing materials, and joint compounds.
  • Public Awareness: Increased public awareness and education about the hazards of asbestos have led to greater efforts in managing and abating asbestos in homes, schools, and workplaces.
  • Ongoing Research: Research continues into the health effects of asbestos and the development of safer alternatives to asbestos-containing products. 
  • Global Issue: Many developed countries have strict regulations regarding the use of asbestos. However, it is still mined and used in many parts of the world, which poses ongoing global health challenges.

Conclusion

Properly dealing with asbestos is necessary for maintaining health and safety. This isn't a task to be tackled without professional help. Experts adhere to stringent regulations to ensure harmful asbestos fibers are accurately identified, removed, and disposed of.

Opt for the sensible, safe option. Ask yourself, "Are there providers that offer asbestos removal near me?"  Put your trust in qualified asbestos abatement experts such as ACTenviro for proper, safe, and ethical asbestos removal services. 

ALL BRANCH LOCATIONS

*ACTenviro has National service and consulting capabilities across the US

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Facility)
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