Asbestos resides in nearly 3.5 million buildings in the US. Starting with the Clean Air Act of 1970, many laws and bans have severely limited the use of asbestos in building materials.
Despite these laws and cleanup efforts, 20% of existing public and commercial buildings still contain asbestos.
Removing asbestos is a hazardous job that must be done within the bounds of strict protocols. Read on and I will explain the 7 steps of how to remove asbestos from commercial and government buildings.
WHAT IS ASBESTOS?
Asbestos is a mineral found in rocks and soil. It is heat resistant, non-conductive, and doesn't corrode. These properties make this substance perfect for many building materials.
There are several types of asbestos used in today's building materials.
Chrysotile: used in floors, ceilings, floors, gaskets, and brake linings
Amosite: used in cement sheets and pipe insulation
Crocidolite: used in steam engines, plastics, and cement products
Anthophyllite: used in construction materials and insulation
Tremolite and actinolite: not commonly used in commercial construction
All forms of asbestos pose a danger to humans.
DANGERS OF ASBESTOS
Asbestos affects humans when it gets inhaled into the lungs. Once there, it can lodge in the lung lining and remain there for a lifetime.
Asbestos causes the four following diseases and conditions.
Asbestos particles that have gotten embedded in lung tissue cause irreversible scarring.
It can take years for the symptoms of asbestosis to appear. You will notice a persistent, dry cough, tightness of your chest, and crackling sounds when you breathe.
Asbestosis has no cure. Treatment only slows the progression of the disease.
This condition affects the outside of the lungs and the inside lining of the chest cavity. The most common symptoms present as chest pain, shortness of breath, and coughing.
A pleural disease can lead to a collapsed lung, shock, and sepsis.
This cancer originates in the thin layer of tissues that covers many of the internal organs of the body. In the case of Mesothelioma, it occurs in the lungs.
Treatments of this disease include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
The current 5-year survival rate of Mesothelioma is a meager 10%.
All forms of asbestos pose a risk of causing lung cancer.
The asbestos itself does not directly cause lung cancer. The asbestos fibers lead to cancer through an indirect epigenetic process called DNA methylation.
Asbestos exposure causes six times more cases of lung cancer than it does Mesothelioma.
HOW TO REMOVE ASBESTOS
Removing asbestos should never be attempted by anyone other than an asbestos removal contractor. The process of identifying and removing asbestos requires training and experience to be done safely.
An asbestos removal contractor will follow these seven steps.
1. PERFORM A SURVEY
They will determine if asbestos is present. One cannot identify asbestos by looking at a material. Materials need testing by a certified asbestos abatement company.
Not all asbestos resides in a form dangerous to humans. A professional will determine if any asbestos that resides in the building requires removal.
2. PROPERLY PREPARE THE WORK AREA
If the asbestos removal contractor determines the presence of asbestos and that it needs removing, they will condone off the affected area.
The affected area gets covered completely in plastic sheeting. Then negative pressure equipment keeps the air in the contained area from escaping.
Asbestos warning placards get affixed in and around the area to alert people that the area contains asbestos.
3. EQUIP PERSONNEL APPROPRIATELY
Asbestos fibers are tiny. Typical breathing masks will not suffice to prevent exposure. Workers must wear N-100 or P-100 respirators at all times when inside the asbestos removal area.
Asbestos removal workers wear eyewear protection, rubber boots, disposable gloves, and disposable suits or pants.
4. CONTROL THE ENVIRONMENT
The asbestos removal contractor surveys the entire building for factors that could lead to asbestos exposure. The first step they take is to turn off all HVAC systems. They would then disable any other vents and systems that move air through the building.
They will use only HEPA vacuums designated as safe for asbestos removal. When cleaning off dust from immovable objects, they will use only wet wipes.
5. DISPOSE OF REMOVED ASBESTOS
Workers wet down all asbestos and contaminated material before removing it from the affected area. The moisture keeps the fibers from getting airborne.
Asbestos and asbestos-contaminated material get disposed of in double-lined bags of no less than 6 mil thickness.
The material then gets put into a plastic container with a leak-tight lid. A label identifying the material as hazardous asbestos waste then gets affixed to the container.
Only landfills specially constructed and operated to safely dispose of asbestos can accept this kind of waste. The improper disposal of asbestos can result in hefty fines and even imprisonment.
6. SETUP DECONTAMINATION UNITS
Closed-off and contained areas must be set up as areas for workers to remove contaminated clothing. Workers then remove all visible dust from their protective equipment with a HEPA vacuum.
Three areas get set up: 1. A dirty room. 2. A clean changing room with a toilet and a shower. 3. A clean room.
Each worker removes all contaminated clothing after leaving the asbestos work area. Each worker showers in the clean changing room before leaving the worksite each day.
7. DISPOSE OF CONTAMINATED ITEMS
While wearing their PPE, a worker disposes of their protective clothing into plastic bags of 200 microns of thickness or greater. The worker then seals the bag with duct tape. That bag gets placed in a second bag labeled as Asbestos Waste.
The bags must then get wiped down with a wet cloth. This waste then gets disposed of at an asbestos hazardous waste site.
ASBESTOS REMOVAL DONE RIGHT
When asbestos has been constructed in a form that can become airborne in some way, it must get removed. Only a professional asbestos removal company knows how to remove asbestos safely.
Contact HCI Engineering & Hazmat Team if you need an asbestos survey or asbestos removal from a commercial or government in California. Our experienced professionals remove all manner of hazardous materials. No matter your hazard, call us for the job.