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What Is an Asbestos Abatement? What You Need to Know!

Asbestos removal signage

Some substances can be hazardous to those around them if not handled properly. Among the most dangerous substances often overlooked is asbestos. It’s a naturally occurring mineral that has been used for many years in the construction industry. It’s known for its use in products such as fireproofing materials, fittings, ceilings, and filters.

If you own a home or building constructed before the 1970s, there’s a chance that it contains asbestos. But this seemingly innocuous substance can cause lung cancer and other ailments if inhaled by humans. Its hazardous nature to humans necessitates an asbestos abatement. This is the process of removing asbestos-containing materials from a building and disposing of them at a licensed landfill site. Only professional contractors trained in handling hazardous materials can do it.

We’ll expound more on asbestos abatement and how it’s done in this handy guide. This way, you’ll not be at risk of inhaling this harmful substance. So, keep reading to learn more!

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Where Is Asbestos Used?

Asbestos is used in a wide range of products and materials. These materials can release asbestos fibers in the home when damaged. They include:

  • Boilers
  • Corrugated sheets
  • Artificial embers
  • Stove-top pads
  • Roofing materials, such as tiles and shingles
  • Cement pipes
  • Hot water and steam pipes
  • Soundproofing materials
  • Cement water tanks
  • Textured paint used on walls and ceiling joints
  • Insulation for oil and coal furnaces
  • Insulation in homes built before the 1980s

Asbestos is also used to make brakes, automobile clutches, gaskets, and transmission parts because of its heat-resistance properties.

Don’t do any DIY repair or replacement of products containing asbestos. It’s the only way you can limit asbestos exposure. It’s crucial to know the building products containing asbestos so you can avoid contact with it.

close up of asbestos
Image Credit: KPG-Payless, Shutterstock

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How Does Asbestos Abatement Work?

Asbestos abatement must be done carefully to avoid releasing asbestos fibers into the air. It is not recommended to attempt asbestos abatement on your own. Find professional contractors to do the job for you.

To understand how asbestos abatement works, we’ll look at the steps followed in the asbestos abatement procedure. Here they are:

1. Creating a Plan

Asbestos abatement needs planning and preparation to ensure safety and compliance with federal laws and regulations governing this activity. Each job will have unique requirements based on factors like where the asbestos is. The plan details the preparation and the cleanup procedure.

Before abatement contractors get into the actual asbestos abatement process, they establish a decontamination chamber close to the work area. It should have a shower. Contractors use this chamber when exiting the work area.

2. Proper Demarcation

As soon as you have a proper plan, mark off all areas containing asbestos properly. Proper demarcation includes using bright yellow caution tape around the area where asbestos abatement is happening. All nonessential personnel should move away from these areas until they are cleaned up and ready for occupancy.

3. Set Up a Regulated Work Area

An asbestos contractor should seal air ducts and disable the HVAC system using thick plastic sheets that have filtration and air pressure differential. This way, they seal off areas that don’t need to be treated.

Before the asbestos abatement contractor begins the actual asbestos abatement process and repair work, you should hire an industrial hygiene company. The company inspects the working area preparation.

Room covered for asbestos removal
Image Credit: Karin Hildebrand Lau, Shutterstock

4. Removing the Material

Once all the preparations are complete, it’s time to remove the asbestos-containing material (ACM). This process may involve breaking up floor tiles and removing plaster from walls so that all the asbestos-containing material can be removed.

The contractor puts on personal protective clothing to protect them from asbestos exposure.

Once this step is complete, an asbestos abatement contractor disposes of all the debris in sealed containers or double-wrapped plastic bags. Then, they transport it out of the building for permanent storage at a disposal site away from human contact.

5. HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) Vacuuming

This method involves using high-powered vacuums to remove asbestos from surfaces. It shouldn’t be used on friable asbestos or where there are loose particles. It also reduces the dispersion of asbestos fibers when an abatement contractor is working or cleaning surfaces.

6. Final Cleaning

After completing the asbestos abatement and vacuuming, the industrial hygiene company inspects it and performs clearance air sampling that conforms to federal and state requirements.

The only time the barriers and air filtration at the work area are removed is if the clearance testing is completed. Also, the work area should meet the set clearance standards.

7. Post-Cleanup

After this cleanup process is complete, it’s time for post-cleanup. It involves cleaning up any areas where dust has settled, testing areas for asbestos fibers, and removing any that remain after cleanup. This way, they won’t pose a health hazard to residents.

After that, the contractors remove the containment barriers. They should also clean the work area again using HEPA vacuuming. Once complete, the abatement contractor should give you a report containing site logs, licensing copies, permits, and shipment records.

Besides, the industrial hygiene company should give you copies of the inspection results. Ensure you keep these documents safe.

Asbestos removal in old building
Image Credit: SKatzenberger, Shutterstock

Factors Affecting Asbestos Abatement

Several factors will affect the asbestos abatement process, as seen below:

The Age of the Building

The building’s age will affect how long it takes to complete an asbestos abatement project. Older buildings have more asbestos-containing materials. It’s because asbestos was widely used in construction materials.

Also, older buildings have more wear and tear than newer ones. So, they are more likely to contain damaged ACMs that need to be removed before you refurbish or demolish it.

The Amount of Asbestos Present

The amount of asbestos will determine how much work needs to be done and how much money it’ll cost. For example, if there’s only a small amount of asbestos present, it may only take one day for an asbestos abatement crew to remove it. But, if there’s a large amount of it, it can take the crew weeks to finish their work.

The Condition of the ACMs (Asbestos-Containing Materials)

The condition of the ACMs plays a significant role in determining how long it will take to carry out asbestos abatement. It’ll be easier to remove them if they are in good condition. No one will be exposed to asbestos fibers.

You can carry out encapsulation if the asbestos materials don’t have severe damage. Encapsulation is coating the asbestos materials using an adhesive. It prevents the asbestos fibers from contaminating the air. You can also perform enclosures that involve covering asbestos materials using an airtight material to stop the release of fibers into the air.

But if the asbestos materials are damaged or have deteriorated, they become more dangerous. So, the process will need special handling procedures.

The Details of the Asbestos Abatement Project

Every project has its specifications and requirements that must be followed for it to be successful. Asbestos abatement contractors must follow all these instructions carefully to ensure all the work is done according to plan.

If you do not follow these instructions, there’s a risk that you will expose yourself or others around you to asbestos fibers. Besides, if you don’t follow these instructions, there’s also a chance that some areas may remain contaminated with asbestos fibers even after an abatement project has been completed.

Asbestos, goggles, and mask
Image Credit: HikoPhotography, Shutterstock

Advantages of Asbestos Abatement

  • The risk to human health is eliminated
  • When discovered early, asbestos abatement can prevent further damage to a building
  • It increases the air quality in a building
  • Asbestos abatement removes all asbestos present in a building

Disadvantages of Asbestos Abatement

  • The source of asbestos isn’t eliminated
  • Regular maintenance and inspections are needed, which increases the costs over time.
  • Asbestos abatement may increase the risk of fire in a building
  • It disrupts the building’s occupants temporarily
  • The asbestos may contaminate the building if not abated correctly
  • It’s the most complex, costly, and time-consuming method

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Fatal And Severe Illnesses caused by Asbestos Exposure

The health effects of asbestos exposure are often severe and long-lasting. Asbestos-related illnesses can develop long after initial exposure.

So, you should contact an asbestos abatement contractor as soon as possible to carry out asbestos abatement. Here are several illnesses caused by asbestos.

  • MesotheliomaMesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. It affects the lining around the digestive system, lungs, heart, abdomen, and reproductive organs. In rare cases, it can affect the bones or skin. Usually, mesothelioma takes a long time to develop after asbestos exposure. By the time it’s diagnosed, the disease has become fatal.
  • Asbestosis- If you have worked with asbestos for many years and have not been using protective equipment such as respirators and gloves, there’s an increased risk of developing asbestosis. The disease causes scarring of the lungs due to inhaling asbestos fibers. The scarring makes it challenging for your lungs to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain when breathing deeply or vigorously. It can also be fatal in some cases.
  • Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer- This is one of the most common cancers among people exposed to the mineral. It occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled and become lodged in the lungs, causing inflammation and scarring, which eventually lead to cancer. Asbestos-related lung cancers often don’t show symptoms until in the advanced stage.
  • Pleural Thickening- This is an abnormal thickening of the tissue between the lungs and chest wall (pleura). This condition is also characterized by shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, and fatigue. It’s most often caused by exposure to asbestos in the workplace for a long time. It can also be caused by smoking or exposure to other carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).

Now you know that asbestos abatement is a job left to a professional asbestos abatement contractor due to the adverse health effects we’ve discussed above. So, it’s crucial to know what to look for when finding an asbestos abatement company. Here are several tips to help you out!

Tips when Hiring an Asbestos Abatement Company

  • More Than 10 Years of Experience– An experienced company has valuable expertise and knowledge in its field. If a company has been around for a long time, they’ve dealt with hundreds of projects. Also, they have seen just about everything when it comes to asbestos abatement.
  • Ask for Competitive Prices and Free Quotes- Before you choose an asbestos abatement company, ask for competitive prices and free quotes from at least three different contractors. This way, you can compare rates and services before deciding. The free quotes should include all costs associated with the job such as materials, labor, and travel expenses. Don’t go for companies that ask for fees for their quotes. Most likely, they’re a scam.
  • Find Out if the Asbestos Abatement Company Adheres to Strict Protocols– Before hiring any contractor, ensure they have all their certifications in place. For example, if a contractor says they are licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ask them for proof of this license. This way, you’ll know they’re legally allowed to perform asbestos abatement work. You should also find out if they have any training from local government agencies on how to handle asbestos well.
  • Look for Good Ratings and Testimonials From Clients- Look at customer satisfaction ratings and reviews online. An asbestos abatement company should have plenty of positive feedback from past clients who were happy with their work. Reviews from other customers reveal crucial information about their level of service and commitment to quality workmanship.
door covered with asbestos warning sign
Image Credit: Karin Hildebrand Lau, Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should you hire an asbestos abatement company?

Asbestos abatement can be messy, time-consuming, and challenging for people without experience. If you try to remove asbestos on your own, you may contaminate yourself with this dangerous material. It can lead to severe health issues down the road.

An asbestos abatement company is your best bet. They will have all their equipment at hand. So, they can remove the asbestos safely without exposing themselves or anyone else in your home to harmful particles.

How do you dispose of asbestos after abatement?

There are various ways to dispose of asbestos depending on the amount of asbestos abatement needed. The asbestos abatement company you hired will do it for you. The most common way of disposing of asbestos is in landfills.

They’re inexpensive and also take up more space than other methods. Asbestos landfills must be set up in compliance with EPA regulations. It may be challenging for smaller companies without the resources or experience necessary.

How much does asbestos abatement cost?

Asbestos abatement costs can vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. The cost depends on several factors such as the size of the area that needs to be abated and the type of asbestos material being removed. It also includes the amount of labor involved in asbestos abatement.

The average cost of asbestos abatement in a 1,500-square-foot house is between $1,100–$2,000. If the whole house needs asbestos abatement, you’ll pay between $15,000–$30,000.

How do you know you need asbestos abatement services?

If you are remodeling your home, you might be wondering how to tell if asbestos is present. Asbestos abatement services are necessary when you plan to renovate or demolish a building with ACMs.

Another way you’ll know you need asbestos abatement is by contacting an approved testing firm. They’ll assess your home or building and tell you if you need asbestos abatement. You may also suspect that some materials are crumbling. If this is the case, contact an asbestos abatement company as soon as possible.

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Conclusion

Asbestos abatement is the process of removing asbestos from a building. It prevents exposure to asbestos fibers, which could otherwise be hazardous to human health. They can cause diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Asbestos abatement is a risky undertaking that only professional abatement contractors carry out. They must remove asbestos without exposing anyone to it. Asbestos abatement isn’t as easy as it seems. That’s why you need to find certified contractors to help complete this job. After all, there are positive results if you remove such a substance.


Featured Image Credit: A Periam Photography, Shutterstock

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