In buildings, asbestos is mainly used for fire protection, for thermal, acoustic insulation and reinforcement for concrete of buildings. In general, asbestos can be found mainly in the materials that cover sprayed surfaces (flocked), insulating pipes and boilers, and in a prefabricated material (asbestos cement). The presence of material-containing asbestos in a building is not free from hazard. It can hamper some danger to the health of the inhabitants. In fact, the health risks depend by the probability that individuals can inhale the material releases in the air asbestos fibres by accident.
When the asbestos material is in good condition and it’s not tampered, which can damage it, it is unlikely that there is a potential risk of asbestos fibre release. On the other hand, if the material is damaged, in bad condition or very friable to maintenance a removal work, there is a potential risk of release of fibres that are dangerous to health due to air currents that may spread the deadly fibres.
People, machines, and vibration of buildings are the most hazardous things for a material containing asbestos, which can affect its friability. There are two types of material conditions that define its level of hazard:
- A friable asbestos is a material that can be easily crumbled or pulverised into powder with a simple manual pressure.
- A non-friable asbestos is a compact materials, which can be crushed or reduced to dust only when using power tools or when an accident damaged the contaminated product. Moreover, the materials are hard and compact, which makes the fibres being released in extreme difficulty.
A possible measure for assessing exposure to asbestos within buildings, as a result of the release of fibres from the materials, is by calculating the air-dispersed fibre concentration. However, to evaluate the risk of fibre release, there is no need to evaluate the full extent of the concentration of fibres. The information of the contamination level can be provided through a sampling and testing process.
While the release of fibres can vary considerably over time, in relation to the behaviour of occupants, activities performed under normal conditions, cleaning, preservation, maintenance and refurbishment.
Therefore, there are two elements involved in the risk assessment:
- Visual inspection (type and condition of the material, factors that can cause damage and degradation, factors that affect it fibre spread and exposure of individuals)
- Environmental monitoring (airborne dispersion analysis)
While common situations acquired for risk assessment are divided into three categories:
- Whole materials that are not susceptible to damage (for material or type of installation, which’s hard to access by occupants)
- Materials, which is susceptible to damage (risk situation in which the material is in good condition, it is likely to be damaged in the future, e.g. exposed to factors of deterioration, damaging incidents by the occupants)
- Damaged materials ( e.g. exposed materials that are damaged by human actions or deterioration, or crumbling and placed near systems ventilation)
Algorithms have been elaborated in order to obtain objective results to decide on the necessity and urgency of reclamation operations. It is primarily applied to friable asbestos-containing materials.
Necessary measures to keep the house safe
When a building has been identified to contain asbestos, it’s highly recommended to take an asbestos removal measure. This action will ensure that all contaminated materials are removed from the premises efficiently and safely.
Due to the exposure risk of a contaminated material when it’s disturbed, an asbestos removal must be performed by following a safe work protocol. These protocols can be summarised as follow:
- Wearing personal protective equipment, which can filter the fibre from being inhaled. The PPE includes a pair of gloves, an overall suit, laceless boots, goggles, and a respirator mask.
- Some warning signs are placed to inform the neighbourhood regarding to the asbestos removal project, which considered as a high-risk job.
- All equipment must have a safety certificate released by the EPA.
- The contaminated waste must be delivered to a legal disposal facility, which has been approved to manage asbestos.
Another thing to consider is that all work related to an asbestos removal must be carried out by a licensed contractor. Getting help from a certified removalist is highly recommended even though the regulation states that homeowners can remove their asbestos materials less than 10 square metres.
All information regarding a licensed asbestos removal contractor can be accessed via local council in your area. This information is important to ensure that the asbestos removal project is conducted by someone who has the right expertise and knowledge to take out all contaminated material properly.
Any work related to asbestos must be managed in the safest way possible. Thus, the risk of exposure can be minimised for both the removalist and the building occupants.