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A Primer on Asbestos Abatement

Since asbestos abatement (removal) is the most common cause these days of asbestos-related illnesses, the Environmental Protection Agency has been pushing the federal and local governments to come out with new guidelines regarding the proper handling of these materials.

Most asbestos material is abated only when disturbed. Asbestos is safe as long as the materials are not disturbed and do not become friable. But when a homeowner plans a general renovation, remodeling, repairs, or demolition, the likelihood of exposure is greatly increased.

Do You Need an Asbestos Abatement Permit?

The presence of asbestos fibers, either confirmed from air quality samples or from bulk material, does not necessarily require abatement, yet many local and city governments will not issue a building permit or allow demolitions to commence without first obtaining an asbestos abatement permit. Check with the local authorities on what these requirements will cover.

On the federal level though, despite the EPA’s urging, there are no government regulations requiring the removal of any asbestos products in private, single-family homes. Except for disposal of the material, owners of homes, duplexes, or condos of four families or less can abate their own asbestos products without falling under the same asbestos industry regulations that affect contractors.

Safe Abatement Procedures

Federal regulations regarding asbestos material abatement only apply to contractors working on commercial projects, so as a homeowner, you can do your own work yourself. There are some abatement safety guidelines that you should follow and those are relatively simple: first, you should cover your skin by wearing pants and long sleeves, in addition to gloves, eye wear, and a recommended air respirator (not a dust mask). You are also advised that you should wear disposable clothing so the microscopic asbestos fibers are not carried into your home.

For roofing shingles for example, you should carefully extract the fasteners holding the shingles rather than tear them out. Also, try to keep the material wet to keep down the dust and double-bag the shingles before lowering them to the ground (rather than tossing them in a dumpster from the roof). This type of careful handling during abatement will keep the asbestos from being released into the air.

Proper asbestos abatement will also require packaging the material in double layers of thick plastic bags or lined boxes before being transported. The containers will then be labeled stating the contents. Though not as dangerous, non-friable asbestos materials are to be packaged the same way friable asbestos waste is. Disposal of these hazardous materials must then be done at a landfill designated for asbestos disposal.

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