Scott Talks: Asbestos—Costly to both your health and your pocketbook!

Check out our latest podcast to learn about the dangers of asbestos and the steps necessary to properly abate it. 

Hi this is Scott Lawson. I want to talk a little bit about asbestos which is one of our favorite topics. We've been involved in the asbestos industry - if you want to call it that - since about 1980. And for the first 10 or 20 years of the asbestos industry I guess the rule of thumb was that all the asbestos in the world was going to be gone from circulation and it won't be an industry anymore, sometime around 2010.

And here it is 2019, and I would say a significant amount of the consulting work we do still involves asbestos in buildings or people who are working with asbestos containing materials. And we run into the same issues, problems, whatever from a business standpoint today that we have been for the last 20 or 25 years. It's amazing to me that it's still a topic that most people don't understand. Very simply, very fundamentally, asbestos is a recognized carcinogen. And what that means is it can cause cancer. It does not necessarily mean that it will cause cancer.

There's a known correlation between smoking and asbestos exposure, that you have a significantly greater risk of developing lung disease if you're a smoker exposed to asbestos than if you're just a smoker or just somebody exposed to asbestos. In the world of asbestos, there's what's called a single-fiber-theory which some people suggest that it can take a single fiber or exposure to a minimal amount of asbestos to cause lung disease.

Typically, an accumulation of asbestos fibers in the lung causes a disease called asbestosis. And what that actually means is the asbestos fibers get deep into the lungs into the alveolar sacs. They give the same rigid performance of the alveolar sacs that asbestos does because of its high-tensile strength and a lot of building products and what it does is it just it minimizes the body's ability to actually expand and contract the alveolar sacs and bring oxygen or air into the lungs. The theory also is that a lesser exposure to asbestos fibers causes a disease which is a cancer of the plural lining of the chest cavity which is called mesothelioma and mesothelioma can only be attributed to asbestos exposure.

You find a lot of asbestosis and or mesothelioma in people who worked in shipyards, people who were in the Navy where they were onboard ships because it was a ton of asbestos used in the boat building industry back 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago. You find a lot of people involved in the brake industry, automobile brake industry, in installing changing brakes and clutches and cars and trucks. There was a significant exposure to asbestos again back 30, 40, 50 years ago and you find it in a whole bunch of building trades plumbing, heating, ventilation.

I can remember when we first started doing this. They actually were dumping bags of asbestos into machines that actually put asphalt curbs in place because the asbestos mixed in with the hot asphalt would actually give it that high-tensile strength. So, when it came out the other end as curbing in a parking lot it would actually retain its shape. So, there's a whole bunch of tasks or whatever where you can become exposed to asbestos a lot of it decades ago.

In today's world where we encounter an awful lot of cases is in building materials and it's two different ways that we encounter on a regular basis. One is in schools and there is a specific EPA regulation dealing with schools called AHERA and that stands for asbestos hazard Emergency Response Act. And what that basically says is back in the 1980s you were supposed to identify all the suspect asbestos containing building materials ACBM.

Which are things like pipe insulation, floor tiles, mastic ceiling tiles, and on, and, on, and, on to determine where you had asbestos and if it was in horrible condition or friable which means it can get airborne. You were supposed to try to abate it if not you could manage it in place and the whole concept behind that was that you would leave it there until you needed to remove it because you were actually replacing Heating and Ventilating equipment. You were demolishing the building you were renovating the building, but somehow you were going to impact the asbestos containing materials.

But as long as you kept them covered with paint or kept him well insulated so they couldn't become friable you could leave them in place. The problem with the regulation was it made it more and more expensive from a testing and management standpoint over time to leave it in place and deal with it down the road. So, it created the asbestos abatement industry where not only were consultants in demand to come in and evaluate all the asbestos but then you hired abatement companies to come in and remove all the asbestos now because it was going to be significantly more expensive later.

Here we are again in 2019 and we're still removing asbestos on a daily basis. The other regulation is called NESHAPs and that stands for the national emissions standard for hazardous air pollutants and that also deals primarily with asbestos. But what it basically says is whenever you're going to impact asbestos containing materials via demolition or renovation in a building you have to first identify the asbestos and abate it so you don't release that asbestos into the general air outside of the building as a result of that construction effort. So, what we still end up doing is in a lot of cases we'll get calls from a homeowner or business or a school that says we're adding on a room we're tearing down a building we're getting rid of this garage or whatever and we think it contains asbestos. NESHAPS requires that you do a building survey before you can even touch any material that might contain asbestos.

So, we probably do 10 to 15 of these surveys a week still to go in the buildings where there's either going to be renovation or demolition taking place. Once you identify all the asbestos containing materials that will be impacted by the renovation, if you're only going to knock a hole in a wall to build an addition on you only need to worry about the materials where you're going to knock the hole in the wall, if you're going to tear down the entire building then you need to worry about the entire building. But then once we determine how much is best in the building where it is we come up with a work plan to abate it. We typically work for the building owner and will then bring in contractors to take a look at the building and decide what it will cost and what the work plan would be to abate all the asbestos in the building.

Once we then oversee them removing and abating all the asbestos we provide a three ring binder for people that's all the documentation of the work that was done, waste manifest, licenses, certifications of everybody that was involved in the job and then decide what they want to do with the building. And we've even gotten to the point now where we actually can oversee and manage the destruction of the building by hiring a demolition contractor. In schools it's a little bit different because the schools typically have to manage this stuff over a much longer period of time as they do renovations. The process is sort of still the same. We did building surveys back in 1988. We update those surveys on a timely basis in accordance with what the AHERA standard calls for, and then work with the schools as they get ready to do renovations – typically in the summertime.

To either take up floor tile, or remove a bunch of insulation, or change out a boiler or do whatever and then go through the abatement process with the same project documentation when we're done. I guess the bottom line in all this asbestos regulatory environment is that if you are going to impact asbestos containing materials, whether you're going to demolish a building, renovate a building, or you've got damaged material contains asbestos.

It all has to be repaired fixed removed or abated so that you can then use the building in an asbestos-free manner regardless of whether you're going to continue to use it, whether you're going to renovate it, or whether you're going to demolish it. And if you need help with any of that you can certainly get in touch with our office at the or call us at 603-228-3610 and we have an abundance of folks who can actually go in and determine what you need to do and give you an idea of what it would take to get your project successfully completed.

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