Over the years various materials have been developed and widely used in buildings, only to discover, years later, that they inflict disastrous effects on the health of humans. Sometimes these materials are easy to replace, but some are very difficult or even dangerous to remove. One of these materials is asbestos. There are many regulations regarding asbestos removal, especially if it’s being removed from a building where people reside or work. Asbestos removal must be completed by a professional but some people think they can cut corners to save money and handle the situation themselves. This is never a good idea.
What is Asbestos?
To fully understand the scope of potential danger, one must first understand that most buildings erected before 1990 most likely contain asbestos materials. Asbestos has been used throughout history but in the early 20th century it became a very popular building material. Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that’s fire resistant, cheap and easy to use. It has a fiber like quality that can be spun into fabric. At the time, many building materials in the United States contained asbestos including:
- Pipe Covering
- Drywall Joint Compound
Why is It Dangerous?
Like many materials asbestos has good and bad qualities. It is a good insulator and is fire resistant, however, the shape and size of the fibers makes it very dangerous to humans. Asbestos can break into tiny pieces as it deteriorates and be inhaled into the lungs. Unlike other materials, the body cannot expel Asbestos. This causes a variety of reactions including scarring of the lungs, fibrosis and cancer. In addition, symptoms may not surface until many years after exposure.
United States Regulations
While many nations were investigating and prohibiting the use of asbestos as early as the 1940s, the United States did not start regulating the material until the 1970s. During this time, documents proved that the asbestos industry knew about the effects of the material as early as the 1930s, but did nothing. Even to this day, asbestos is not a banned substance in the U.S. However, there are many rules and regulations as to how much asbestos can be contained in materials and how asbestos removal must be handled.
Because asbestos deteriorates and breaks into very fine particles, caution must be taken to ensure the particles are contained and not breathed in. Workers must wear or have access to:
- Tyveck body suits
- Full face respirators
- Hair covers
- Showering facilities
Asbestos removal companies are specially trained in containment of the material as well as the safest way to remove it from a building or environment.
Because of the health-related issues with asbestos, many people want it removed from their homes, buildings and schools. Proper removal can be expensive, but it is the safest and most secure way to handle asbestos removal. However, over the years, some people have been under the impression that the rules regarding removal can be ignored.
Patrick Bowman and Rudolph Buendia of Planada California were sentenced to 27 months (Bowman) and 24 months (Buendia) in prison for knowingly hiring high school students for asbestos removal without proper training or equipment.
Wassim Azizi was sentenced to 10 months in California federal prison for demolishing a building that contained significant amounts of asbestos.
These are just a few extreme examples, but make no mistake – there are harsh penalties, including fines, jail time and probation for people who do not go about asbestos removal in the proper way.
You can contact the California Department of Industrial Relations for more information on asbestos removal or how to file a complaint.
Download a free copy of our Don’t Get Sued! eBook to learn about mitigating liability risks associated with asbestos, lead paint, and mold.