Asbestos is usually considered a hazardous substance. It has killed around 5000 people in the UK. If you encounter a surface or a material, you must determine if it has asbestos before taking action. In countries like the Netherlands, asbestos has been banned since 1994. However, they continue to exist in several other materials in different countries. Generally, asbestos is found in old buildings and other places like chimneys, floor coverings, etc. They might also get deposited on some appliances if you continue using them for a long.
Asbestos can be harmful, and you should know how to identify it. Once you have crossed the identification stage, you must take the necessary steps to eliminate it. This comprehensive guide will help you identify asbestos and take the steps required to eliminate it.
A set of inherently heat-, fire-and electricity-resistant minerals is known as asbestos. Historically, they were frequently utilized in consumer goods due to their durability. They were used in the production of oven mitts and building insulation. The link between asbestos exposure, deadly malignancies, and other illnesses, including mesothelioma and asbestosis, was only identified in the 1970s. Since then, several countries have banned its usage.
Depending on its present product, asbestos can be blue, white, or brown. Three types of asbestos can be found in homes:
- Crocidolite (blue)
- Chrysotile (white)
- Amosite (brown)
Of the types listed above, Crocidolite or blue asbestos is considered the most harmful. Earlier, it was used in steam engine insulations. Even pipes were coated with these so that the pipes were well insulated. It has thin fibers and can be recognized by its peculiar blue color. Amosite is also quite harmful as it can even cause cancer. They are used in cement sheets and other insulation products. Chrysotile is the most commonly found asbestos as it is present in roofs, ceilings, etc.
If you have seen a product affected by asbestos before, you will be able to identify it just by looking at it. Products that are covered with asbestos lose their natural luster and turn dull. Also, their surface gets covered with small black spots. However, if you think that a surface or a material contains asbestos, you should get it checked before you start treating it.
You must get in touch with a NATA-accredited facility if you want to get something checked and determine if they have asbestos or not. You must take all the necessary precautions and stay away from that material until you decide on a course of action. You can refer to the asbestos product guide available online. This guide will show you pictures of some asbestos-containing products that you might find at home. This will help you compare the suspected product in your home with these pictures.
Though asbestos is banned in most countries, it is commonly found in some products used in building homes. They can also be found in older homes built when people were unaware of the concept of asbestos. Asbestos might get introduced in your home through floor coverings, re-tiling of bathrooms, roofing, plumbing, etc. Also, many people have AC sheets installed in their garages, which can be a significant source of asbestos.
Unlike other harmful substances that usually have a smell, asbestos has no particular smell. You can’t detect the presence of asbestos just by smelling a particular product. As mentioned before, only by looking at the product can you get a fair idea if the product has asbestos or not. However, if you want to be doubly sure, you must get a scientific test done on the product. You can ask them to conduct an asbestos survey, and they will help you spot the areas that will most likely have asbestos.
Characteristics of Asbestos
Asbestos can be both friable and non-friable, depending on the surface. The way the asbestos crumbles defines if it is friable or not. Non-friable asbestos does not crumble easily, and they are still being used to manufacture products used in the construction industry. They have a bonding agent, which reduces the emission of toxins and thus is less harmful to humans. However, if they are crushed or remodeled, they can still pose a significant threat.
Meanwhile, friable asbestos crumbles easily and comes with more health risks. You can easily find them in thermal insulation, water heaters, tiles, etc. If you apply even slight pressure on it, it turns into powder. You get exposed to severe allergies if you are exposed to friable asbestos.
There are several characteristics of asbestos, and you can look for these if you are trying to identify asbestos. Asbestos fibers are light and tiny; hence, they can float in the air for quite a while. However, asbestos tends to disintegrate into tiny fibers, which can only be seen with the help of a microscope. These fibers can get into your lungs, causing severe health issues. If they are in groups, you can see them with your naked eyes.
Asbestos is a raw fiber mineral, and hence, if you touch it, it will feel soft. They might feel a bit rough if used to make a compound product. You can understand these features to identify asbestos.
Conducting Asbestos Surveys
Before removing asbestos, you must complete a survey to ensure that the surface or the product contains asbestos. There are two types of asbestos surveys:
- Management Survey
- Refurbishment and Demolition Survey
A management survey is conducted in non-residential buildings or properties, but these buildings are frequently used. These buildings include schools, factories, etc. You will come across several compliances you must adhere to manage asbestos. The survey's conductors will help you create an asbestos management plan, which you can adhere to. This survey involves visual inspection, ad they might also send some minor samples for test. However, it heavily relies on presumptions.
The refurbishment and demolition surveys are more intense. Generally, these are conducted before construction takes place. These surveys identify all the asbestos-containing materials that are used during construction. These surveys disclose asbestos that leaves visual clues and includes those hidden within the building.
Once you know that your building or a particular product has asbestos, you should take steps to eliminate it. You can move forward either with repair or removal. Repairing the building or a product is always the preferred way of dealing with asbestos as you are exposed to less risk. You can reach out to a professional who might then encapsulate the object or the surface. They do this by coating the substance with sealants, so the fibers do not get released into the air.
However, there might be cases where repairs might not be possible. As a last resort, you must go with asbestos removal. Using a respirator mask is mandatory if you are getting into the process of asbestos removal or taking professional help. The mask will protect you from harmful fibers that might be released into the air during the removal.
You can hire a trained professional who works under strict guidelines to ensure that the removal does not pose any severe health risks to the people staying in that home. They seal the area and use a sealed dumpster to dispose of the asbestos collected from the affected surface or product. Some other steps involved in the removal process are:
- Switch off all the HVAC units and the vents to prevent the floating of the asbestos fibers
- Use plastic sheeting to seal the area where the repair work has to be conducted
- Make sure that you use wet cleaning tools and HEPA filter cleaners to clean the space and make the property fit for use.
- All the materials scrapped from the surface must be placed in leak-tight containers.
As mentioned below, the professionals must use protective gear like respirators and masks while removing asbestos. They will handle the cleaning process and re-evaluate if the space is suitable for accommodation or use. You must avoid DIY removal as asbestos can have severe health complications. If you spot asbestos, you must immediately reach out to an asbestos abatement professional who will help you with the next steps. These professionals are well versed in the federal laws governing asbestos removal and will ensure your home is safe again.
Once you get the surface treated, you must ask the professionals to ensure that the asbestos is disposed of safely. The professionals generally take the materials to a landfill that accepts harmful substances as waste.
In most cases, the asbestos is dampened and then put in plastic before it is disposed of safely. The packet can also be buried under the ground. Now that you know the identification process, you must contact some professionals who may help you eliminate asbestos. As soon as you get a confirmation that a surface or a product has asbestos, you must take the necessary steps to treat it.