Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral widely used in construction and manufacturing applications for its fire-resistant and insulating properties. However, it has been linked to severe health issues, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, resulting from exposure to its fibres. Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can still be found in many older buildings, and safe handling and removal are essential to protect public health and the environment. This article will outline the dos and don’ts of asbestos disposal and provide best practices for safe handling and removal.
Identifying Asbestos-Containing Materials
Before discussing the proper handling and removal of asbestos, it is essential to identify ACMs. Asbestos was used in various products, including insulation, roofing materials, floor tiles, cement, and textured coatings. It can be difficult to determine if a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, and it is often necessary to have a sample tested by a certified laboratory. If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home or workplace, it is crucial to exercise caution and avoid disturbing the material until its presence can be confirmed or ruled out.
- Hire a professional asbestos inspector to assess your property and identify any ACMs present. This will ensure accurate identification and help you understand the potential risks associated with the materials.
- Keep a record of the location and condition of identified asbestos-containing materials. This information is useful for future maintenance or renovation work and can help you monitor the materials’ condition.
- Educate yourself on the appearance and properties of common asbestos-containing materials. This knowledge can help you identify potential asbestos hazards in the future.
- Only attempt to take samples of suspected asbestos-containing materials yourself. Improper sampling can release asbestos fibres into the air, increasing the risk of exposure.
- Don’t rely solely on visual inspections to determine whether a material contains asbestos. Many asbestos-containing materials closely resemble other non-hazardous materials.
Safe Handling and Removal of Asbestos
Once asbestos-containing materials have been identified, proper handling and removal are crucial to minimising the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. Asbestos removal should always be performed by licensed and certified professionals who have the necessary training and equipment to carry out the work safely.
- Hire a licensed and certified asbestos abatement contractor. These professionals have the training, experience, and equipment to remove and dispose of asbestos-containing materials safely.
- Follow all federal, state, and local asbestos removal and disposal regulations. Ensure that the hired contractor is aware of and adheres to these regulations.
- Isolate the work area to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres to other parts of the building. This may involve sealing off vents, doors, and windows and using plastic sheeting to create a containment barrier.
- Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as respirators with HEPA filters, disposable coveralls, gloves, and protective eyewear. This equipment protects workers from inhaling asbestos fibres and prevents personal clothing and belongings from contamination.
- Monitor the condition of asbestos-containing materials regularly. Look for signs of damage, such as cracks, water damage, or wear, which may release asbestos fibres.
- Promptly repair or encapsulate damaged asbestos-containing materials. Encapsulation involves sealing the material with a specialised coating that prevents the release of fibres.
- Train maintenance and custodial staff on the proper handling of asbestos-containing materials and ensure they are aware of the location of these materials in your building.
- Communicate with building occupants and employees about the presence of asbestos-containing materials and the steps being taken to manage them safely.
- Only perform maintenance, renovation, or repair work on asbestos-containing materials by consulting a certified asbestos professional. Disturbing these materials can release asbestos fibres into the air, increasing the risk of exposure.
- Don’t use abrasive cleaning methods or power tools that damage asbestos-containing materials and release fibres.
Handling and disposing of asbestos-containing materials safely is crucial to protect public health and the environment. Following the do’s and don’ts outlined in this article and adhering to best practices, building owners, managers, and occupants can minimise the risks associated with asbestos exposure. Always consult with certified professionals when dealing with asbestos-containing materials, and stay informed about the regulations and guidelines in your local area.