Best Practices for Dealing with Asbestos

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Did you know that over 4% of lung cancer cases in the U.S. can be attributed to asbestos exposure? Or that mesothelioma, a cancer linked almost exclusively to asbestos, kills over 3,000 Americans every year?

Asbestos avoidance and abatement is an increasingly important environmental discipline. As asbestos-laden structures begin to age, the risk for exposure, particularly among employees at these  locations, could grow exponentially. Shield Engineering, has extensive experience mitigating asbestos-related risks to commercial, industrial, and even residential developments.

 

The Facts About Asbestos

The word “asbestos” actually refers to six different naturally-occurring minerals that were once used to produce durable fibers for construction. Since the late 1800s, asbestos has been mined in the U.S. for both industrial and commercial use. It’s countless applications include flooring, insulation, roofing, pipes, paints, tiles, and even car parts.

As a result of increasing evidence about the compounds’ long-term health risks, the government began imposing regulations on the use of asbestos in new products in the 1970s. Today, EPA regulations block the manufacturing of asbestos containing products and new asbestos applications within the US. However,  , uses developed prior to 1989 are still allowed.  The consumption of asbestos in the U.S. has fallen sharply to only a few hundred metric tons each year. A 2017 study by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows the U.S. imported an estimated 705 metric tons of raw chrysotile asbestos in 2016.

 

Dealing with Workplace Asbestos

The most common way for asbestos fibers to enter the body by breathing in airborne particles. In fact, asbestos containing materials are not generally considered to be harmful unless it is releasing dust or fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested. Fiber releases can result in harmful exposures when working with or around asbestos.

The first step in preventing workplace exposure to asbestos is knowing when to employ special O&M work practices. Demolition, construction, and/or cleaning of structures built prior to the 1990s greatly increases the risk of exposure and should be considered carefully.

Proactive measures for working in an asbestos-possible area include the use of protective clothing, personal respirators, proper ventilation, and in some cases the use of wet methods and/or a HEPA vacuum. Mini-enclosures, area isolation, and portable, ventilated power tools may also be advisable.

 

Cleaning Asbestos Properly

It is critically important that all workers who may come into contact with asbestos be notified to such and properly trained on the recognition and proper handling of asbestos materials. Workers that are expected to handle asbestos materials must be trained on the use, removal, and disposal of protective clothing and/or equipment. OSHA requires that all workers be protected  when they are likely to be exposed to releases, including  high fiber levels.

There are several commonly employed methods for effectively, safely removing asbestos from a worksite. These include wet cleaning/wet wiping, the use of HEPA vacuums in a negative-pressure enclosure, and when carpets are involved, steam cleaning. In some circumstances, DIY-removal is legally allowed, but it is never recommended. If you suspect asbestos in your workplace in any amount, it is always safest to contact an experienced environmental engineering team to ensure cleanup is performed efficiently and comprehensively.

Shield has been managing the mitigation of asbestos-related risks to commercial, industrial, and residential clients for over twenty years. Shield’s staff is ready, willing and able to provide knowledgeable, friendly service relating to your asbestos needs.

Reach out to the team at Shield today to discuss your options for managing asbestos risks.

 

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