How to Remove Asbestos to Avoid Serious Health Damage

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Living in a house built in the 1980s can increase the possibility of exposure to asbestos during renovation times. Asbestos was widely used in construction material, but when further research warned the government about its health hazards, it banned it in the 1990s.

However, banning it can’t remove asbestos from the existing materials. For its removal, you should make some serious efforts. Therefore, testing your building for asbestos removal is crucial before starting the renovation. Before moving further, you must know what asbestos material exactly is.

What Is Asbestos and What Is it Used for?

What is asbestos?

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Asbestos is a naturally occurring material composed of a thin fiber structure. It’s a combination of six different materials. In the past, constructors primarily used this material for insulation because of its solid characteristics and anti-flaming properties. Therefore, asbestos is vastly used in various aspects, like:

  • Heavy industry construction
  • Shipbuilding
  • Military services

However, asbestos exposure can cause several severe health issues:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Pleural Plaques
  • Asbestosis

 The bad news is exposure to asbestos shows symptoms after 20 to 50 years, while the acknowledgment of exposure and early screening can save the lives of your loved ones.

Types Of Asbestos

Six types of asbestos minerals are classified into two main groups: serpentine and amphibole.

  1. Chrysotile asbestos (serpentine group) is the most common type of building material. Chrysotile fibers are curly and flexible.
  2. Amosite asbestos (amphibole group) – It is also known as brown asbestos and is commonly found in cement sheets, insulation boards, and pipes.
  3. Crocidolite asbestos (amphibole group) is also known as blue asbestos and is the most hazardous type. It was primarily used to manufacture insulation products, such as pipe and boiler insulation in oil and coal furnaces.
  4. Anthophyllite asbestos (amphibole group) is found in some talc and vermiculite products and as a contaminant in some asbestos-containing materials.
  5. Tremolite asbestos (amphibole group) – It is found in some talc products, vermiculite products, and as a contaminant in some asbestos-containing materials.
  6. Actinolite asbestos (amphibole group) – It is found as a contaminant in some asbestos-containing materials.

Potential Reasons for Asbestos Removal

1. Vast Exposure To Asbestos

Asbestos on roofing sheets

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Recent studies show that over 90 thousand people worldwide die from asbestos-related diseases. Sadly, asbestos material is not banned all across the world. Over 60 countries banned this hazardous air pollutant, but it’s not banned in the US. Another study reveals that over 30 million commercial and residential buildings contain an enormous amount of asbestos.

2. A Health Disaster Material

The importance of home cleaning for asbestos removal is crucial because of its health dangers. Asbestos fibers can leave your health in a fatal condition. Removing asbestos by a certified company can put you in peace; you and your loved ones are safe.

Asbestos removal

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Therefore, asbestos removal is an essential part of renovation or construction projects. It’s critical to clean the contaminated area before proceeding further.

7 Tips for Asbestos Removal

Asbestos is in good condition and, if left undisturbed, is not hazardous to health. However, one should take serious measures, especially when exposed to asbestos for home or kitchen renovations.

Removing asbestos( hazardous air pollutants)

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  1. Before removing asbestos, you must plan what to do and how the process will work.
  2. Ensure you have a place and equipment for the proper disposal of asbestos material. 
  3. Being the homeowner may not restrict you from removing asbestos from the house, but one should comply with the disposal requirement or consult abatement companies.
  4. Remember that your family and neighbors may get the effect when planning its removal. Try to ensure the precautions you take to secure your surroundings.
  5. Seeking advice from an asbestos abatement company can be proficient for you.
  6. Do wear a PPE suit while removing asbestos.
  7. Wrap all the asbestos waste with care while removing it.

How to Remove Different Types of Asbestos

Asbestos is a dangerous material that can cause serious health problems when inhaling its fibers. Removing asbestos should only be done by an asbestos professional with the necessary training and equipment to do so safely. However, if you are interested in learning more about the process, here are some general guidelines for removing different types of asbestos:

1. Friable Asbestos

Asbestos Abatement

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Friable asbestos is asbestos that is easily crumbled or pulverized. This type of asbestos is the most hazardous because it can easily release fibers into the air. If you suspect that you have friable asbestos in your home, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Call a licensed asbestos removal professional immediately.

2. Non-friable Asbestos

Remove Non-Friable Asbestos

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Non-friable asbestos is tightly bound in material and less likely to release fibers into the air. Non-friable asbestos can be found in roofing shingles, floor tiles, and insulation. If you need to remove non-friable asbestos, it is important to do so carefully to minimize the release of fibers. Here are the steps for removing non-friable asbestos:

  1. Wear protective clothing, including a respirator, gloves, and disposable coveralls.
  2. Wet the asbestos-containing material with water to reduce the release of fibers.
  3. Carefully remove the contaminated materials, not breaking them apart or damaging them.
  4. Double bag the material in heavy-duty plastic bags labeled as containing asbestos.
  5. Dispose of the bags at a facility authorized to accept asbestos-containing materials.

3. Asbestos Insulation

 Asbestos Insulation

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Asbestos insulation is often found in older homes and can be dangerous if disturbed. If you suspect that you have asbestos insulation in your home, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Call a licensed asbestos removal professional immediately.

Risks Associated with Improper Abatement of Asbestos

Improper asbestos removal can pose significant risks to both the workers involved in the removal process and the occupants of the building. It is essential to follow proper asbestos removal procedures to protect the health and safety of workers and occupants, improve environmental quality, and avoid legal and financial liabilities. Some of the potential risks associated with improper asbestos removal include the following:

1. Exposure to Asbestos Fibers

Asbestos fibers are extremely hazardous when inhaled, and they can cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. If you don’t practice worker safety, improper removal methods can release asbestos fibers into the air, which can be inhaled by workers and occupants of the building, causing a health hazard.

2. Contamination of the Environment

If you don’t handle asbestos safely, it could contaminate the surrounding environment. Suppose asbestos fibers are released into the air. In that case, they can settle on surfaces and be tracked into other building areas or outside, potentially exposing more people to the hazardous fibers.

Improper asbestos removal can result in legal and financial liabilities for the property owner, contractor, and workers involved in the removal process. Failure to comply with federal regulations on asbestos removal can result in fines and other penalties, and if individuals are exposed to asbestos and become ill, federal and state laws can affect them.

4. Damage to the Building

Improper removal methods can also cause damage to the building itself. For example, abrasive methods to remove asbestos-containing materials can damage the underlying structure or create additional hazards.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Remove Asbestos

1. What dissolves asbestos?

Asbestos is highly resistant to chemical reactions; very few substances can dissolve it completely. Consequently, some chemicals can break down or weaken the bonds between the asbestos fibers if you still wish to dissolve asbestos alone. They make removing or managing asbestos-containing material (ACM) easier. These chemicals include:

  1. Hydrofluoric acid
  2. Sodium hydroxide-Also is known as caustic soda or lye; this chemical can weaken the bonds between asbestos fibers, making it easier to remove ACM.
  3. Ammonium chloride-This chemical can dissolve the binder that holds asbestos fibers together, making it easier to remove the ACM.

2. How can I reduce asbestos exposure in my home?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral commonly used in construction materials due to its heat resistance and durability. However, it is also a known carcinogen and can cause serious health problems if you inhale it. Here are some steps you can take to reduce asbestos exposure in your home

  • Homes built in the 1980s have a higher likelihood of having asbestos in materials such as ceiling tiles, insulation, and flooring. Hire a professional asbestos inspector to determine if your home has any asbestos-containing materials.
  • If you have an asbestos-containing material in good condition and not disturbed, it is usually safe to leave it in place. Do not drill, cut, or disturb any asbestos-containing material, as this can release harmful fibers into the air.
  • If you need to repair or remove any asbestos-containing material, hire a trained and licensed professional to handle asbestos. Do not attempt to do it yourself, as this can be dangerous and increase your asbestos exposure.
  • If you must enter an area with asbestos-containing material, wear protective clothing, gloves, and a respirator mask to reduce your exposure to the fibers.
  • Asbestos-containing material must be disposed of properly to avoid exposing others to the fibers. Contact your local authorities to find the proper way to dispose of asbestos-containing material in your area.

3. What should I do if exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos exposure leads to serious health problems, so taking precautions and seeking medical attention if you think you may have been exposed is important. If you have been exposed to asbestos, taking certain steps to protect your health is important. Here are some things you can do:

  • If you have been exposed to asbestos, seeing a doctor immediately is important. Even if you don’t feel symptoms, you could still be at risk for developing asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma or lung cancer.
  • If you are exposed to asbestos while working, inform your employer. They should minimize your exposure and ensure that other workers are not at risk.
  • If you suspect asbestos exposure in your home or workplace, avoid disturbing it as much as possible.
  • If you have been exposed to asbestos, take precautions to avoid exposing others to the fibers. For example, remove and wash any clothing or equipment that may have come into contact with asbestos before returning home.

4. What is the risk of asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral used in various industries due to its heat resistance and insulating properties. However, asbestos exposure leads to serious health risks like lung cancer. However, there are other asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis. When you inhale asbestos fibers, they can become lodged in the lungs and other tissues, leading to inflammation, scarring, and damage over time.

The risk of asbestos exposure is highest among individuals who work or are working in industries where asbestos is commonly used, including construction, shipbuilding, and manufacturing. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and the risk of developing asbestos-related diseases increases with the duration and intensity of exposure. Therefore, taking precautions to avoid asbestos exposure is important, such as wearing protective equipment and following proper occupational safety procedures when working with asbestos materials.

5. Does asbestos degrade after 80 years?

Yes, asbestos can break into smaller fibers and become airborne within 80 years, leading to inhalation and potential health risks. The rate at which asbestos degrades depends on various factors, such as the type of asbestos, the conditions it’s exposed to, and the amount of wear and tear it receives. Some studies suggest that asbestos can degrade over time, particularly if exposed to moisture, UV radiation, and other environmental factors. However, even if the asbestos degrades, the fibers can still pose a health risk if they become airborne and are inhaled.

It’s important to note that the mere presence of asbestos-containing materials in a building can still pose a risk to human health regardless of their condition. Suppose you suspect that your home or building may contain asbestos. In that case, it’s recommended to contact a professional asbestos abatement contractor to conduct an inspection and determine the best course of action.

6. Is it safe to recycle asbestos?

No, it is not safe or recommended to recycle asbestos. Asbestos is a dangerous material that causes serious health problems if handled improperly. The fibers in asbestos can become airborne and be inhaled, leading to lung diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Furthermore, asbestos-containing materials are typically regulated as hazardous waste and must be disposed of according to specific asbestos regulations set by federal, state, and local governments. Asbestos waste must be properly packaged, labeled, transported, and disposed of in an appropriate landfill or incinerator that is permitted to handle this type of waste.

Therefore, it is essential to avoid handling or disturbing asbestos-containing materials and contact licensed professionals for any work involving them, including removal, transportation, and disposal.

Wrapping Up

Taking care of asbestos exposure during construction or renovations is essential to avoid severe health conditions. Removing this hazardous material on your own or seeking professional help is beneficial. However, if asbestos is in good condition, it’s recommended not to touch those areas during the renovation or construction.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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