Up until the 1980s, both home and office spaces used asbestos frequently during construction and maintenance. Asbestos is a heat-resistant, naturally-occurring substance; these qualities made it attractive to use for both insulation and fireproofing buildings. Closer to the end of the 1980s, however, asbestos became labeled as a dangerous carcinogen.
Regulations on Asbestos
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned all asbestos products from being used in either residential or commercial spaces in 1989; however, the ruling was overturned, resulting in the enactment of a partial asbestos ban. Currently, there are still asbestos-containing products in manufacturing, which are primarily used in construction. It is, therefore, crucial to have your building tested, whether residential or commercial, especially if you are planning to demolish the building. In addition to banning the majority of asbestos-containing materials, there are EPA regulations that mandate companies to alert the EPA if manufacturing asbestos-containing products. This report ensures that these materials undergo close EPA inspection to determine their safety-level for public use.
The United States of America’s Clean Air & Water Act also deals with asbestos products, primarily involving how to handle any older structures that contain asbestos products when demolishing or updating them. This law was designed to protect construction workers from hazardous asbestos exposure, which could potentially result in health issues later in life.
Are You At Risk for Exposure?
Asbestos is present in many buildings built before 1980, typically in one or more of these common locations:
Tile (floor and/or ceiling)
Insulation materials and surrounding air ducts
The mere presence of asbestos products in your home or place of work is not a concern for high-risk lung damage. In most cases, asbestos is self-contained, and you have a low exposure risk if the building materials containing asbestos are in good structural condition. Your chance of asbestos exposure does increase when the materials undergo damage or disturbance; for example, if floor or ceiling tiles crack, small asbestos particles may release into the air. Structural age tends to invite deterioration similar to this.
Prior to asbestos removal, be sure to inspect your commercial or residential space for any damage or decay of tiles, siding, roof shingles, insulation, and other materials that commonly contain asbestos. Check carefully for holes, cracks, water or fire damage, and other visible signs of damage. Should building materials appear worn or damaged in any way, it is best to call for a professional inspection of the structure.
How to Prepare Properly for Asbestos Removal
If asbestos is present within your commercial or residential space, the best decision for its management is complete removal. Before you begin removing asbestos or paying for a renovation to spaces containing asbestos, have your building professionally inspected. In reading the Clean Air & Water Act, building owners or operators will notice that any plans for renovating or demolishing such a building require a professional examination. Even if no demolition will occur, a renovation or restoration will result in the removal or disturbance of materials containing asbestos.
Although it can be tempting to save money by skipping a professional removal or demolition; however, it is strongly encouraged that demolition or asbestos removal is not done on your own. Individuals handling products with asbestos are extremely vulnerable to exposure. Asbestos-containing materials require proper handling and disposal; asbestos cannot be simply thrown away due to the risk of personal harm and contamination for both air and water sources. Professional services have the correct preparation and handle asbestos removal, making the process safe for all parties in and surrounding your building.
EPA Regulations for Commercial Spaces
The majority of EPA rules and regulations for residential asbestos inspection and removal are also applicable for commercial spaces. However, the EPA does have specific guidelines for commercial buildings in terms of operation and maintenance to reduce exposure to asbestos. Many of these regulations involve regular cleaning and handling areas of the building where it’s possible for asbestos to remain. When creating an upkeep schedule for any commercial spaces, the EPA does recommend using cleaning and handling techniques that leave asbestos-containing materials intact and undisturbed, thus lowering the potential for exposure. The EPA also suggests keeping all building materials in proper condition since the disturbance or damage of materials with asbestos releases harmful particles.
The EPA categorizes different building materials to provide specific guidelines for each group, including:
thermal insulation materials
There are separate procedures for dealing with material in the above groups; but, EPA specifications dictate that all workers in operations and maintenance must undergo proper training. If you operate, own, or oversee a commercial building, especially one built pre-1980, you must provide thorough worker training for the potential handling of asbestos. Spaces deemed “commercial” include, but are not limited to the following:
office buildings and complexes
multi-unit apartment buildings
In addition, the EPA outlines separate regulations for school buildings to protect children; however, guidelines do apply to the majority of other commercial spaces where minors are not involved.
Before any maintenance workers are able to conduct product repair or service where drilling and other disturbance may occur, they must be correctly trained to discern potential asbestos-containing materials so they do not disturb them. The EPA also regulates that all construction workers must receive proper protection if they are in danger of being exposed to asbestos from building materials or conditions.
Because much older construction likely contains asbestos, you are responsible for keeping yourself, your family, maintenance workers, employees, customers, and any additional building occupants safe by ensuring that your space is kept in good, working condition. Should asbestos-containing materials sustain damage or you decide to begin renovations, keep everyone safe by calling Asbestos Project Management to test for and remove asbestos.
MEC offers limited and comprehensive sampling for minor and major renovations and demolitions. Our services include asbestos inspections, asbestos air testing, all the way through the completion of asbestos removal projects. With over 25 years in the industry, we know the people to call when your project gets complicated. Give us a call today, we have seen it all.