By the time the EPA and OSHA began issuing dire warnings about the use of asbestos in the 1970s, millions of individuals worldwide had been working in buildings containing asbestos materials for decades. With the issuance of the warnings and the eventual ban, health officials began thinking about the best way to end daily exposure to asbestos, with the hopes of saving many lives in the years to come.
Asbestos RemovalSince the time the warnings were issued, there have been a number of schools of thought when it comes to eliminating asbestos from factories, commercial buildings, shipyards, schools, and homes. In the early years, widespread panic prompted the thought that complete removal was the only way to go while others maintained the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” attitude. Because asbestos doesn’t present a problem unless it is compromised and fibers become airborne, many inspectors and other officials correctly maintained that if the material was intact and in good condition, there was no need to remove it.
Indeed, there are really four options when it comes to controlling asbestos exposure in a building where it could potentially affect the health of those who work, play, study, or live there.
* Remove – if the surface of the asbestos is crumbling or damaged, or is likely to be damaged in the future, it is best to remove it. If a building which contains asbestos is scheduled for demolition, proper removal is essential before the wrecking ball moves in.
* Deep-seal – if the asbestos is in good condition and isn’t likely to be damaged or disturbed due to construction, etc., many choose to encapsulate or “deep-seal” it.
* Enclose – enclose the area affected by asbestos with new construction so that no one can enter and the asbestos is not disturbed.
* Label and Monitor - if the asbestos is in good condition and unlikely to be damaged, label it, leave it “as is”, and monitor its condition regularly.
While all these may appear to be suitable solutions to a serious challenge, problems arise when asbestos is not treated properly, especially during the removal procedure. Often, removal is NOT the best option, but if it is, it must be accomplished by a licensed asbestos-removal company and according to OSHA procedures. Asbestos removal does indeed tend to elevate levels of airborne fibers, thus putting those in the building at higher risk.
Unscrupulous owners may attempt to “cut corners”, hiring a company that does not possess the proper credentials and, therefore, saving money. If you’re in a building where asbestos is being removed, be sure that the area is enclosed with sheets of plastic, that all materials removed are disposed of properly, and that air quality is constantly monitored during removal. If you suspect that things are being done improperly, leave the building immediately.
If you work in a building where the owners have chosen to “wait and see”, you’ll also want to be sure that a proper monitoring system is in place to assure continued safety. Asbestos should never be totally ignored, even after it’s recognized and labeled, especially if it’s at risk of becoming damaged for one reason or another.
Deciding whether or not to remove asbestos is a major financial concern for building and/or company owners. Hasty removal or improper monitoring should always be a concern for those who may be potentially exposed to airborne asbestos. To learn more about the particulars of asbestos removal and non-removal, sign up for our free information packet.