The best way to handle, dispose of and recycle asbestos is to hire licensed asbestos abatement professionals. Learn more about how asbestos is recycled and how professionals safely handle and dispose of asbestos-containing materials.
Why It’s Important to Handle Asbestos Safely
Improper handling of asbestos-containing materials puts workers and the general public at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer and asbestosis.
The risk of developing one of these diseases increases with every exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, mesothelioma specialists haven’t found a cure for mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related diseases. That’s why strict regulations on the handling and disposing of asbestos-containing materials have become law.
These regulations aim to prevent workers and the general public from exposure to asbestos. Large fines and serious penalties are in place for those who violate asbestos laws.
Fines and penalties deter do-it-yourselfers from performing asbestos abatement projects that should be carried out by a professional. They also incentivize building owners and abatement companies to follow regulations that exist to preserve public health.
How to Handle and Dispose of Asbestos
The first and most important thing to know about handling and disposing of asbestos is that you should not do it yourself. Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen that should only be handled by licensed asbestos abatement professionals.
While you can find information online about do-it-yourself asbestos abatement, it is highly recommended that you do not attempt to disturb asbestos-containing materials in any way.
If you find friable asbestos products in your home, you may carefully wet them to prevent them from releasing fibers until you can get a licensed professional to assess your home.
These professionals are highly trained and certified to follow all federal and state laws governing asbestos abatement and disposal. If you don’t hire a professional, you are likely to break one of the many laws that regulate asbestos, and you run the risk of facing a serious fine or penalty.
HANDLING AND DISPOSING OF ASBESTOS REGULATIONS INCLUDE:
- Planning the Project Appropriately: Licensed professionals know how to assess the size and severity of the abatement project. This matters a lot to local officials who supply permits for different types of asbestos-abatement projects.
- Preparing the Work Area: The work area must be sealed off with plastic sheeting and negative air pressure units must be used to prevent contamination outside the work area. Surfaces that don’t need abating must be covered in plastic sheeting. Warning signs must be posted to alert others that an asbestos project is underway.
- Wearing Personal Safety Protection: Workers must wear an N-100 or P-100 respirator and protective clothing to prevent asbestos exposure.
- Safety Protocols in the Work Area: HVAC systems must be disabled to prevent circulation of asbestos fibers. Workers should use wet wipes or a HEPA vacuum to clean asbestos off immoveable objects to control dust. A HEPA vacuum is used to clean up the area when the abatement is finished.
- How to Handle and Dispose of Asbestos Waste: Asbestos-containing materials are wetted prior to any removal efforts. Workers must be wearing a respirator and personal safety protection as they work with contaminated materials. All asbestos waste generated during the project must be wetted before it is double bagged in 6-millimeter plastic bags and enclosed in a plastic, leak-tight container with a lid and proper labeling. It can only be disposed of in special landfills that are designated to receive asbestos waste.
- Creating Decontamination Units: Decontamination enclosure systems must be installed to allow workers to remove contaminated clothing, shoes and tools.
- Following Decontamination Procedures: Professionals must follow specific steps to safely remove contaminated protective clothing and equipment. These procedures ensure worker safety and prevent workers from tracking asbestos into their homes.
Benefits of Recycling Asbestos Materials
- Permanent Solution: The recycling process destroys asbestos fibers and converts them into a nonhazardous substance.
- Reusable Products: The end products can be used in a variety of applications.
- Reduces Waste: The process reduces the volume of asbestos-containing materials significantly, which saves precious space in landfills.
- Prevents Asbestos from Going to Landfills: The recycling process prevents the dumping of asbestos products into landfills, which protects landfill workers from exposure.
- Offsets Costs of Abatement: Recycling asbestos can offset the cost of abatement by producing material that can be safely used rather than paying a high price for dumping hazardous waste.
- Removes Asbestos from the Waste Stream: Transforming asbestos into nonhazardous substances is the morally responsible action to prevent future asbestos-related diseases.
Currently, the cost of recycling asbestos is about three times that of traditional disposal in special landfills designated to receive asbestos waste. Some of the cost may be recouped by selling the nonhazardous end products.
In the U.S., asbestos recycling is not available to the general public. The Department of Defense has recycled asbestos-containing materials at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. Private companies around the world are working on developing and refining asbestos recycling technologies with the goal of making it more affordable in the near future.
While it may not be an affordable option in most applications, asbestos recycling is a safer way to dispose of asbestos-containing materials. The availability of regulated disposal sites is dwindling in the U.S., which means asbestos recycling will soon become increasingly important.
As technology improves and landfill space continues to diminish, asbestos recycling will become a viable and ethical way to deal with the legacy of asbestos products.
How to Identify and Protect Your Family from Asbestos
Learning about asbestos products that may be common in homes and schools can help you protect your family from asbestos exposure. This will also help your family members learn to recognize and avoid waste that was improperly dumped that may contain asbestos.
There is no way to visually know if a product contains asbestos. The best practice is to learn about the products that are likely to contain asbestos and treat them as if they do, until you have them tested.
When people rent or purchase a new home that was constructed before the 1990s, it is likely to contain asbestos products. Even new homes built today may contain asbestos in roofing and flooring materials, cement shingles, millboard and corrugated sheets.
OLDER ASBESTOS-CONTAINING PRODUCTS CAN INCLUDE:
- Flooring materials
- Ceiling materials
- Roofing materials
- HVAC ductwork
- Electrical components
- Shingles and siding
- Fireplace materials
Thanks to the team at asbestos.com for suppling this article.