Did you know that asbestos exposure causes over 4% of lung cancer cases in the United States? Or that mesothelioma, a kind of disease whose almost sole cause is asbestos, kills nearly 3,000 people each year in the United States?
Asbestos abatement and avoidance are more critical environmental issues than ever before. As asbestos-laden buildings age, the danger of exposure, particularly among employees working there, may dramatically increase. Shield Engineering has significant expertise in managing asbestos-related hazards to commercial, industrial, and even residential facilities.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a term that refers to six distinct, naturally-occurring minerals that were formerly used to make strong fibers for construction. Since the late 1800s, asbestos has been extracted in the United States for industrial and commercial usage. It's used in flooring, insulation, roofs, pipes, paints, tiles, and automobile parts.
As a result of growing concern over the chemicals' long-term health consequences, the government- imposed restrictions on the usage of asbestos in new goods in the 1970s. Today, EPA rules prohibit the manufacture of products that contain asbestos and new asbestos applications inside the United States. 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.
Asbestos in the Workplace
The most common way for asbestos fibers to enter the body is by breathing in airborne particles. In fact, materials that contain asbestos 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 release can result in harmful exposures when working with or around asbestos.
The first step in preventing asbestos exposure at the workplace is to understand when to use special methods and procedures. Demolition, construction, and/or cleaning of buildings constructed prior to 1990 substantially raises the risk of exposure and should be done with caution.
Proactive measures for working in an asbestos-infested area include the use of protective clothing, individual respirators, sufficient ventilation, and in some circumstances, wet methods and/or a HEPA vacuum. Mini-enclosures, area isolation and portable ventilated power tools might also be useful.
Proper Cleaning Procedures
It is critical that all personnel who may encounter asbestos are informed of the danger and professionally trained in its identification and safe handling. Workers tasked with handling asbestos must be taught how to utilize, remove, and dispose 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 safe ways to remove asbestos from a location. Wet cleaning/wet wiping, the use of HEPA vacuums in a negative-pressure enclosure, and steam cleaning are some examples. It is usually safest to call an experienced environmental engineering firm if you suspect asbestos in your workplace or residence in any quantity.
For over 20 years, Shield Engineering has been managing the mitigation of asbestos-related risks for commercial, industrial, and residential clients. Shield's team of experts can help with any questions you may have regarding your asbestos needs.
Reach out to the team at Shield today to discuss your options for managing asbestos risks.