Though the use of asbestos was largely halted in the 1980s, its widespread use for much of the twentieth century means it is not uncommon for people to come across asbestos in their homes or other buildings today. If this happens, it does not mean panic should set in, but there are precautions that should be exercised. By treating asbestos with caution, injury can be avoided.
Asbestos Abatement: Repair Versus Removal
Asbestos was extensively used in insulation and other products that required heat resistance. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it is damaged or removed, which releases microscopic fibers into the air. When breathed in, these fibers may remain in the lungs for many years before serious health complications appear, such as mesothelioma or other cancers.
Asbestos that is damaged or that may be disturbed should either be repaired or removed. A repair involves the sealing or covering of the asbestos (or the product containing asbestos). Sealing or encapsulation occurs when material is treated with a sealant that either binds the fibers together or coats the material, which prevents any fibers from being released. Alternatively, covering or enclosure involves the placement of something over or around the material containing asbestos in order to prevent the release of fibers.
In some cases, removal is required. This is often necessary when remodeling or other work will likely disturb materials containing asbestos. Removal may also be necessary when a product with asbestos is excessively damaged.
Inspectors and Contractors
Inspectors inspect a home or building, make assessments of the conditions, obtain samples used for testing, and give advice on what should be done. Additionally, inspectors can also monitor the air to discover whether asbestos fibers were released, determine whether corrective action was completed following proper procedures, and ensure any cleanup was done correctly. In contrast, contractors actually perform the repair or removal of asbestos or materials containing asbestos.
Under federal law, there is no requirement that individuals who inspect, repair, or remove asbestos in detached, single-family homes be trained or accredited. However, some states or localities do require such training or accreditation. Before allowing someone to begin work, individuals should request documentation of the professional’s completion of federal or state-approved training.
The following are some things to expect when hiring an asbestos professional:
- For an inspector: An inspector should complete a visual inspection of the entire home and collect samples for analysis in a lab. After the inspection is complete, the inspector should provide a written evaluation which details the exact location of all asbestos, the extent of any damage, and his or her recommendations for correction and prevention of harm.
- For a contractor: A written contract should be provided which sets out the plan, cleanup, and applicable regulations that must be followed (these may include notification requirements and removal, handling and disposal procedures). Following completion of the contractor’s work, an inspector or independent air testing contractor should perform air monitoring.
Legal Help for Victims of Asbestos Exposure
Exposure to asbestos can have severe consequences. If you believe that you have been harmed as a result of being exposed to asbestos, speak with an attorney experienced in asbestos-related diseases. At the Throneberry Law Group, we provide compassionate legal advocacy for victims of asbestos-related diseases.