Asbestos Abatement Guide for the Home

After finding something you suspect has asbestos in your home, you may be worried about your and your family’s health. If you find asbestos in your home the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends following a few simple steps (like testing suspicious areas) to protect your loved ones. Moreover, an asbestos abatement guide may help you find the right company to contact.

In most cases, you can’t identify asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) just by looking at them. Some contaminated products carried “asbestos” labels, but most of the thousands of home products did not. Also, ACMs do not have an identifying scent.

Generally, ACMs aren’t dangerous just because they’re in your home. Damaged ACM, however, could release tiny particles into the air. Asbestos particles are so lightweight they can stay afloat for several days.

Inhaling asbestos dust has been linked to cancer. As such, handle all suspected materials as if they do have asbestos and are dangerous.

What Is Asbestos Abatement?

Asbestos abatement is the process of removing or repairing asbestos-containing materials. No federal regulations prohibit homeowners from tackling asbestos problems in their own homes. However, commercial building owners and landlords are often subject to state and local asbestos laws to protect the public.

The risk of finding ACM is higher in structures built before the 1980s. After this time, bans on specific uses of asbestos (such as spray-asbestos insulation) reduced the use of the material. Nontoxic asbestos alternatives also curtailed many companies’ use of ACMs.

If the asbestos-containing material is in good condition (i.e., not damaged, torn, fraying, etc.), the EPA suggests leaving it alone.

Today, prior applications of ACM are the primary health risk for people at home. An asbestos abatement professional can guide you in safely renovating or replacing ACM.

Why Is Asbestos Abatement Important?

Asbestos was once a popular building material in the construction of homes and buildings in every part of the country. Many manufacturers of household products touted its fireproofing and lightweight qualities. The cancer-causing mineral made its way into goods ranging from stove doors to textured paints.

Commonly discovered ACM in older buildings and homes include:

  • Adhesives
  • Boilers
  • Cement sheets
  • Drywall
  • Ducts and duct wrap
  • Electrical wiring and breakers
  • Fireplace bricks
  • Flooring and ceiling tiles
  • Glazing compounds
  • Heat-resistant textiles
  • Insulation
  • Mastics
  • Millboard
  • Oil and coal furnaces
  • Patching compounds
  • Plaster
  • Popcorn ceiling and textured paints
  • Roofing and shingles
  • Sealants and caulks
  • Siding
  • Switchboards
  • Vinyl
  • Walls and floors where wood-burning stoves used to be

Exposure to asbestos dust doesn’t cause immediate symptoms (like a cough) when inhaled or swallowed. Over time, however, asbestos particles cause internal damage to tissues including scarring and changes to cells’ DNAs.

Typically, it takes long periods of exposure to cause asbestos-related complications. Yet, asbestos cancers have developed in cases of exposure lasting only a few days. Following abatement procedures as soon as possible in the event of contamination is best for health and safety.

Types of Abatement

Usually, there are two options when encountering ACM in your home: repair or removal. Repairing ACM commonly includes surrounding and closing off the material from unintentionally circulating fibers into the air. Asbestos removal, though often more expensive, involves completely tearing out ACMs.

In general, hiring professionals to repair areas with ACM is cheaper as well as safer than removal. A trained professional can securely work around and handle ACM without contaminating themselves or those nearby. The Consumer Product Safety Commission discourages making even minor repairs to ACM because asbestos particles could linger in the air unseen.

Methods for Asbestos Repair

Sealing (encapsulation) Seal ACMs with a binding agent to prevent fibers from becoming airborne. Floor tiles and pipes may be encapsulated instead of removing them due to the high cost involved.
Covering (enclosure) Enclose exposed ACM, usually by wrapping. Asbestos duct tape is often covered by a protective wrap.

Methods for Asbestos Removal

Removal is the only type of asbestos abatement that involves fully eliminating the threat of future exposures. However, removal can be costly because an abatement company must wear personal protective equipment, handle all materials carefully, and dispose of debris according to state and local public health laws.

Most abatement professionals consider removal a last resort option due to the complex work involved. Yet, removal may be necessary if the structure is undergoing a total overhaul. Home remodeling projects in high-risk areas may also require removal.

Asbestos testing can tell you which, if any, areas of your home are high-risk and need attention.

Average Costs of Abatement

The cost of an asbestos abatement project varies depending on the size and complexity of the project (including location). Depending on the project, companies must engage workers, supply their protective gear, and properly dispose of all waste while following all applicable asbestos regulations.

“Asbestos disposal rates vary from state to state but generally run $10 to $50 per cubic yard with a permit fee of $50 to $100.” – HomeAdvisor

On average, the typical cost of asbestos abatement ranges from $1,118 to $2,920, according to HomeAdvisor. On the low end, a project may total about $500, while costing $5,000 on the high end. Remediation for an entire home can cost between $15,000 and $30,000 (or more).

If an area of the home or building must be sealed off, costs typically increase. Labor costs about $75 to $200 per hour.

Asbestos abatement companies may charge other fees for additional services such as testing and cleanup. The average cost for asbestos testing is currently $486 – commonly ranging between $228 and $794.

Hiring an Abatement Company

In most states, you can hire an asbestos abatement company through a state list of certified businesses. Usually, a state’s database of trained abatement professionals is maintained by its Department of Public and Environmental Health. Federal law doesn’t force inspectors or contractors to gain certification – state and local regulations apply.

The two types of accredited asbestos professionals include:

  • Asbestos inspectors – Examine and test areas suspected of asbestos contamination. Inspectors also recommend remediation plans.
  • Asbestos contractors – Workers to repair or remove ACM.

To avoid a conflict of interest, most states recommend hiring separate companies to manage inspection and abatement processes.

If You’ve Been Exposed to Asbestos

Asbestos exposure increases your risk of lung disease and certain cancers. Smoking worsens symptoms of lung disease and greatly increases your risk of asbestos-related cancer (like mesothelioma).

Asbestos-caused diseases take a long time to cause noticeable symptoms (such as abdominal swelling, chest pain, and trouble swallowing).

More than 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, but the cancer is difficult for most hospitals to diagnose. Mesothelioma is an incurable – as well as aggressive – form of cancer.

Asbestos lawsuits against ACM manufacturers are common among those seeking compensation for exposure.

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