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Asbestos

Generally, you can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos and leave it alone. 

Asbestos-containing materials that aren’t damaged or disturbed are not likely to pose a health risk. Usually the best thing is to leave asbestos-containing material alone if it is in good condition.

Friable from Asbestos Hazard and Emergency Response Act Terms – when dry, may be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure and includes previously non-friable material which becomes damaged to the extent that when dry it may be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure. 

If you suspect material contains asbestos, don’t touch it. Look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing or handling, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow.

Asbestos Do’s and Don’ts for the Homeowner

  • Do leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone.
  • Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos, including limiting children’s access to any materials that may contain asbestos.
  • Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material.
  • Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by a trained and accredited asbestos professional.
  • Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
  • Don’t use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on flooring that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing install new floor covering over it, if possible.
  • Don’t track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.

If You Have an Asbestos Problem

If the asbestos-containing material is more than slightly damaged or could be disturbed, there are two types of actions that can be taken by trained and accredited asbestos professionals: repair and removal.

Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place.

  • Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely.
  • Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket.

Removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home will disturb asbestos-containing material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos-containing material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a trained and accredited asbestos professional. Improper removal may actually increase your and your family’s exposure to asbestos fibers.

EPA regulates asbestos in school buildings, public and commercial buildings, at clean-up sites, and in certain asbestos products. 

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