Requirements for Testing and Removing Asbestos

Why is it so important to have asbestos removed correctly?

The EPA notes that, in general, symptoms of these conditions won’t show up until 20 to 30 years after the first exposure and that the risks are increased for those who smoke. Asbestos, when undisturbed, is usually not a health concern. When asbestos is disturbed and allowed to become airborne is when the risk becomes high. The very small fibers of asbestos can stay in the lungs for a long period of time, which causes the health issues. In general, asbestosis does not occur unless there are long periods of exposure at high levels, but not always. Certain types of asbestos such as Libby amphibole asbestos can be harmful even at low levels. This, in part, is the reason for controlled removal procedures and the need for certified asbestos abatement companies.

EPA asbestos health concerns with inhaling airborne asbestos:

  • Asbestosis – scare tissue formation within lungs caused by asbestos exposure that causes restricted breathing capability
  • Lung Cancer – exposure to asbestos causes the increase of lung cancer and much greater in combination with smoking tobacco
  • Mesothelioma – cancer within the chest and lung lining thought to be primarily due to asbestos exposure

When is it necessary to test for asbestos containing materials?

The CSLB notes that contractors are required to assume that a building built BEFORE 1980 contains asbestos unless the building owner can provide proof that the materials to be disturbed are asbestos-free. In most cases this means that the materials will need asbestos testingasbestos home inspection testing if the building was built before 1980 unless (a) there had been an passing asbestos test for the specific material already or (b) proof of a renovation AFTER 1979 occurred in the area(s) to be disturbed. If asbestos is found to be present then asbestos removal will be needed. An asbestos inspection would be needed to determine this.

How are materials and air tested for asbestos levels?

Asbestos sampling in homes and commercial buildings can be tested by an asbestos inspector. For example, popcorn ceiling asbestos, asbestos floor tiles, asbestos in drywall, asbestos insulation, etc can be tested the following way:

  • Asbestos Materials Sampling: samples are taken (i.e. piece of drywall, insulation, flooring material, etc) and placed under a microscope to count the amount of asbestos material as a percent of the total sample. Polarized light microscopy (PLM) is the most common method used. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is the other method; it is more accurate than PLM but is more expensive.
  • Asbestos Air Sampling: samples are taken by a machine that pulles a representative sample of air against a filter that is then tested using phase contrast microscopy (PCM). The amount of fibers are counted as a percentage of the total sample.

Who governs the licensing and certification of abatement companies in California?

The entity that controls the applications, registration, renewal, and disciplinary actions for contractors for the State of California is the Asbestos Contractors’ Registration Unit (ACRU). They operate under a State legislative mandate and within the California Department of Industrial Relations. Certification occurs by a licensed contractor passing an examination provided by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and then registering and with Cal/OSHA (Division of Occupational Safety and Health) and keeping certifications and requirements current with both. Cal/OSHA also operates within the California Department of Industrial Relations.

When is it necessary to use a certified abatement company for asbestos removal?

When 100 square feet of surface area or more of asbestos-containing construction material with asbestos levels more than 0.1% asbestos is to be disturbed or removed. Below are the regulations from the governing entities in California:

  • ACRU: notes that a certification of asbestos abatement is required when work involves disturbing 100 square feet of asbestos-containing construction materials with a content of more than 0.1% asbestos.
  • CSLB: under the the Business and Professional Code, Division 3, Chapter 9, Article 4, 7058.5 (a) the CSLB notes again that work involving 100 square feet of surface area or more of asbestos-containing material requires the contractor to have passed an asbestos certification examination.

How is abatement completed? What are the requirements?

Professional certified asbestos removal companies know that the requirements are similar to mold remediation services where containment needs to be set up, negative air filtration needs to occur, workers must wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration and vacuum must occur, removed materials need to be handled and disposed of correctly, and a clearance test needs to occur.

  • Containment: engineering controls such as plastic barriers set-up to stop cross-contamination of airborne asbestos materials
  • Negative air filtration: setting up clean air intake, filtration of the air using HEPA airscrubber(s), and exhaust of cleansed air from the building
  • PPE: workers need to wear protective equipment to save them from exposure such as HEPA breathing masks, skin covering, and eye protection
  • HEPA filtration and vacuuming: all exposed surfaces and air needs to be cleaned with HEPA machines
  • Materials handling: all removed asbestos-containing materials need to be properly bagged and disposed of to not allow cross-contamination
  • Clearance testing: verification of asbestos being brought down to acceptable levels after work has been completed

If you are looking for answers on asbestos testing, removal, and related emergency service for water, fire, or mold remediation, reach us at 619.597.2003.  We specialize in correctly removing asbestos from buildings during emergency damage restoration needs.

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