Asbestos is a naturally occurring yet carcinogenic mineral that was once widely added to many construction and industrial products around the globe. Asbestos was once considered the “miracle” mineral, as it is highly fire, heat and erosion resistant and also acts as a good binding agent.
As early as the 1930’s, scientists were discovering a correlation between illnesses such as scarring of the lungs and lung cancer and exposure to asbestos. Despite this, and increasing evidence that exposure also leads to the development of mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer, it was not until the 1980’s that developed countries, such as the United States, began to implement regulations and impose bans on the use of asbestos.
Now, there are many environmental and federal regulations that are in effect around the use, management, removal and disposal of asbestos. Asbestos poses the highest threat when materials containing the substance are damaged, destroyed or repaired because fibers can then become airborne and be easily inhaled or ingested.
Because of this, there are laws regarding the disposal of asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies asbestos into two categories:
Friable asbestos is the most dangerous to human and environmental health. The EPA created strict regulations that cover demolition, renovation, waste disposal, approved disposal sites and asbestos conversion processes. There are also additional federal and state regulatory requirements. If you are a business owner, homeowner or contractor, you should consult with all governing agencies to ensure compliance.
Generally, for larger quantities being disposed of in dumpsters, contractors and homeowners should use a vehicle that tips which is lined with heavy duty plastic sheeting. An easy way to keep asbestos from becoming airborne is to keep the ACMs thoroughly wet, in all stages of removal, loading and disposal. The sheeting will then be folded over, secured with duct tape, and clearly labeled as asbestos waste.
If unloading smaller amounts, like that done by hand, again make sure that all materials are kept wet, wrapped in heavy duty builders plastic, completely sealed in the plastic using duct tape, clearly marked, and taken to designated approved disposal sites. Packages must be leak proof and clearly labeled dangerous – that they contain asbestos. If the asbestos is part of a larger material or product, such as an appliance, it is most safe to leave the product intact and dispose of it in whole rather than try to separate what is hazardous from that which is not.
In reality, asbestos removal should be done by specialists who are accredited and trained to perform abatement. Your health and that of other s and the environment are worth hiring someone. If you must remove asbestos yourself, take all cautionary measures to prevent exposure and follow these disposal guidelines.