Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was commonly used in construction materials for many years due to its fire-resistant properties. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos fibers can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. For this reason, it is essential that proper asbestos safety protocols are followed when working on older homes that may contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).
Identifying Asbestos-Containing Materials
Before any work is done on an older home, it is important to identify if there are any ACMs present. This can be done by hiring a professional asbestos inspector or by taking a sample of the material and having it tested at an accredited laboratory. Common ACMs found in older homes include:
- Insulation (both loose fill and batt)
- Ceiling tiles and popcorn ceilings
- Vinyl floor tiles and sheeting
- Roofing and siding materials
- Pipe insulation and ductwork
- Textured paints and coatings
It is important to note that ACMs are not always easy to identify by sight alone, and many materials that were commonly used in older homes may contain asbestos. Therefore, it is best to err on the side of caution and assume that any material that was installed prior to the 1980s may contain asbestos.
Proper Asbestos Safety Precautions
If ACMs are identified in an older home, it is important to take proper safety precautions before any work is done. This includes:
- Hiring a licensed asbestos contractor: If the ACMs are going to be disturbed or removed, it is essential that a licensed asbestos contractor is hired to perform the work. These contractors are trained in proper asbestos safety protocols and are equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves and others from exposure.
- Creating a work area: The work area should be sealed off from the rest of the home to prevent the spread of asbestos fibers. This can be done by using plastic sheeting and duct tape to create a barrier around the work area.
- Using proper PPE: Anyone who enters the work area should be equipped with proper PPE, including a respirator, disposable coveralls, gloves, and shoe covers. The PPE should be worn at all times when working with ACMs and should be disposed of properly after use.
- Wetting the ACMs: Wetting the ACMs with water before any work is done can help to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the air.
- Using proper tools and techniques: Specialized tools and techniques should be used when working with ACMs to minimize the release of fibers into the air. For example, instead of using power tools that create a lot of dust, hand tools and manual methods should be used whenever possible.
- Proper disposal: Any materials that contain asbestos should be disposed of properly in accordance with local regulations. This may involve special packaging and labeling, as well as transport to a designated disposal site.
Asbestos Safety for Homeowners
If you are a homeowner who is planning to do some work on an older home that may contain asbestos, there are some important safety precautions that you should take:
- Identify the potential ACMs: Before starting any work, identify any potential ACMs that may be present in the home. This can be done by consulting with an asbestos professional or by sending a sample of the material to an accredited laboratory for testing.
- Hire a professional: If you suspect that ACMs are present in your home and you plan to do any work that may disturb or remove them, it is essential that you hire a licensed asbestos contractor to perform the work.
- Avoid disturbing ACMs: If possible, avoid disturbing ACMs in your home. For example, if you have popcorn ceilings that contain asbestos, you may choose to leave them in place rather than removing them.