Though the use of asbestos was largely discontinued in the 1970s, there are many buildings that still contain the product. For the most part, asbestos poses little or no threat so long as it is not disturbed. As a result, asbestos was simply left in buildings in order to avoid the expense and difficulty of removing it. However, when repairs or reconstruction are required, materials containing asbestos may be disturbed. Because of this, there are numerous laws regulating the process of removal, known as asbestos abatement. Here, we focus on regulations under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) or asbestos abatement under NESHAP.
General Information about Abatement
Under ordinary circumstances, asbestos in buildings does not pose a significant threat. The danger emerges when asbestos is disturbed or moved, which releases microscopic fibers into the air. This can occur when work is undertaken on a building, which will necessitate the safe removal of the products or materials containing asbestos. Additionally, opening walls or doing other work on a building that makes asbestos accessible may provide a good opportunity to remove it, even though it is not affected by the work. The safe removal of asbestos is critically important, but can also be expensive, which caused some individuals to not remove it in a safe manner. As a result, the need for laws standardizing conduct related to asbestos abatement became apparent. Both state and federal laws regulate asbestos abatement. The types of regulations include, but are not limited to, the following:
- How asbestos is handled and disposed of;
- The training and licensing of authorized asbestos contractors; and
- Accreditation of laboratories to test air samples after removal.
Asbestos Abatement under NESHAP
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed NESHAP in order to protect the public from exposure to airborne contaminants that pose hazards to people’s health. Under NESHAP, prior to any demolition or renovation, a thorough inspection of the affected building or part of the building where the demolition or renovation will occur must be completed to search for the presence of regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM). Further, the owner of the building must give written notice to the EPA stating the intention to demolish or renovate. NESHAP requires that all RACM must be removed before any activity beings that may break up, dislodge, or similarly disturb the material or preclude access to the material for subsequent removal. If there is material with RACM on it that is being removed as a unit or in sections, the RACM exposed during the cutting or disjoining must be wetted. This is to help keep it from escaping into the air. Further, during the removal of such material, it must be carefully lowered to the floor or ground level, as opposed to being dropped, thrown, or slid on the ground.