Understanding And Managing Asbestos On Your Commercial Property
Global production of asbestos exploded after World War I. The material, derived from natural minerals, was used for a wide variety of products including building materials and insulation. Governments began banning the use of the silicate minerals in the late 20th century due to the severe health risks associated with inhaling asbestos dust, but many buildings constructed with asbestos materials are still in use. In many cases, the asbestos products are not dangerous. However, if the asbestos material is disturbed or damaged, it can become toxic and a safety hazard.
If you find out that a building you own contains asbestos, the following guide provides you with an overview of the risks associated with the material and what you should do to protect your facility and employees.
How Asbestos Are Released
If asbestos fibers in insulation, roofing, floor tiles, pipes or other structures become airborne, you and your employees are at risk of inhaling toxic dust. Events and conditions that lead to airborne asbestos include:
- Ripped and broken pipes and tiles
- Roofing material that gets burned or damaged in other ways
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes that rip or blow away building materials
- Renovations that disturb old paint, adhesives, flooring and insulation
If your building suffers severe damage, do not try to clean and search through debris on your own. Instead, call asbestos removal experts to determine if any toxic fibers were released into the air. You can make the situation worse if you attempt to remove, scrape, rub or brush away damaged materials.
Dangers of Exposure
Asbestos can be present in building materials for years without posing any dangers. If structures are sealed and isolated, they will not pose a health risk. The fibers of asbestos materials are so small that they can penetrate deep into your lungs leading to serous health problems and even life-threatening diseases.
Once you have been exposed to the material, you may be at risk for several health conditions including, lung cancer, lung scarring (asbestosis), mesothelioma (cancer in the lining of your abdominal cavity or chest) and other respiratory conditions.
Asbestos experts can provide you with a risk assessment and provide you with advice when you plan to modify your buildings. An assessment can inform you if your building requires a low, medium or high risk asbestos removal.
A high risk removal may involve demolishing part of your building or dismantling major structures such as furnaces and kilns that contain asbestos. Consequently, you should hire asbestos removal professionals to assess the condition of your facility before you:
- Make any major renovations such as re-roofing
- Remove building insulation or tiles
- Sand or scrape paint off of walls and ceilings
- Remove soundproofing material from walls and ceilings
- Remove old drywall and plaster
As soon as you realize that asbestos fibers have been released, you need to take precautions such as:
- Limiting access to your facilities until removal experts arrive
- Informing your local government to make sure you are in compliance with regulations regarding asbestos exposure
- Do not try to remove any materials or use a vacuum or compressed air to remove fibers
- Do not attempt to dispose of asbestos materials on your own
Removal and Periodic Surveillance
When asbestos removal workers arrive at your facility, they will cordon off the areas that are potentially dangerous and isolate them from the rest of the building.
Removal workers wear protective suits, use respirators so they can breathe uncontaminated air and set up high-tech machines to keep asbestos fibers from migrating to other areas of the building. After the removal work is complete, they will seal any remaining asbestos materials to prevent fibers from re-contaminating your building. They will also properly dispose of contaminated building materials as per federal regulations.
You should keep tabs on the condition of the asbestos-containing materials in your building. Professionals can conduct periodic asbestos inspections to make sure your facilities remain safe. Your province or local government may also have laws that require you to schedule periodic inspections.