Many homes built before 1980 still contain asbestos, a now-banned substance that can cause cancer. The insulating and fire-resistant properties of asbestos made it a popular ingredient in many building materials, from ceiling and wall plasters to tile, vinyl floor backing, and wallboards.
Asbestos is a serious health hazard when its tiny fibres are allowed to go airborne. This can happen when you disturb any materials containing it during renovations, repairs, or accidental damage. Only asbestos abatement professionals should handle, remove and dispose of asbestos. How do they do so safely?
Removing Asbestos Safely
Wherever a site requires asbestos removal, there are two sides: a dirty part encased in thick plastic sheeting and a clean decontamination area. In the latter, we will store equipment and protective gear during the job. Taking the necessary precautions and preparation is essential, as without them, removing asbestos will put the clean-up crew and anyone they come into contact with at risk of exposure.
During the removal process, we start with asbestos abatement; this is spraying all materials that we are removing with soap and water. It’s especially necessary to dampen any materials that crumble easily, including ceiling tiles, drywall, and plaster.
Once taken down, we double-bag all asbestos waste in specially labelled 6-mil bags, tape them shut, and place them in a hazardous waste bin. These bags should never be dropped down rubble chutes, as this could tear the plastic and release fibres into the air, posing a threat to any bystanders passing by the construction zone.
Trained technicians will know how to work with asbestos-laden materials to avoid breaking them down unnecessarily. Doing so may result in more asbestos dust and the release of more airborne fibres. They should similarly avoid crushing any asbestos materials on the ground.
The Objectives Of Asbestos Removal: Safety, Then Cost
The goal of asbestos removal is to ensure that no fibres escape the contaminated part of the work area. Certified technicians and all tools go through a decontamination process before leaving the work area. Any personal protective equipment needs to be vacuumed and wiped down after use as well. All respirators are properly decontaminated and stored safely before leaving the job site.
Health is always the number one concern. Everything used for the job must be up to code and prepared for the task. For instance, plastic sheeting must be at least 6 millimetres thick, new (never reused), and be disposed of in a hazardous waste landfill.
Here in Canada, anyone who plans to remove asbestos must follow strict safety regulatory guidelines. As you can see, removing this hazardous material is often a complicated process that requires specialized training and equipment. Never try to do it yourself – hire a certified contractor or company. Ask if they have a written safe work plan in place before starting any work!