Asbestos Exposure on Farms?
People who live or work in major cities are probably familiar with the hype that surrounds demolition projects. Although destruction is the immediate goal, it cannot be approached haphazardly. A wide perimeter has to be secured to protect nearby buildings and people. Explosives have to be placed strategically to keep the damage self-contained. But before any of that happens, toxic materials need to be removed from the structure in order to minimize the hazards, including asbestos exposure.
The disposal of old farm buildings isn’t nearly as glamorous, but can involve as much, if not more, careful planning. I recently came across an article in Farm Horizons, a special publication from the Herald Journal in Minnesota. If the owners and managers of farm buildings intend to act responsibly, there are several regulations they need to follow to protect people from asbestos exposure.
Where is asbestos found on a farm?
For centuries, asbestos has been a popular component of building and construction materials. This is because it’s both physically strong and resistant to heat, friction and chemical wear-and-tear.
It would be no wonder, then, to find asbestos present in agribusiness buildings, particularly those that were constructed during the 1960s. The products most likely to contain asbestos include pipe and furnace insulation, shingles, millboard, textured paint and certain types of floor tiles. Asbestos may also be found in spray-on insulation and the brakes of vehicles.
How do farmers need to handle asbestos disposal?
Paul Kimman, pollution control specialist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, told Farm Horizons that farmers have to follow the regulations of the federal National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants. When it comes to asbestos, that means having a licensed inspector survey the building and, if needed, hiring a licensed contractor to perform abatement work.
Also, owners need to consult the local authorities about whether they need to express their intention to initiate a demolition project. Certain jurisdictions require notification within a certain time frame before the demolition.
The asbestos that gets removed during abatement can either be taken to a facility that’s approved for asbestos disposal or buried on site within jurisdictions that allow it. However, the latter method comes with even more rules to follow.
Farmers also have the option to bury the waste from an entire building on site, provided they first go through the permit by rule process. This comes with several regulations, including restrictions from wetlands, floodplains, rivers, lakes, ponds and the groundwater table. Also, a permit by rule process forbids the burial of asbestos and household waste. These hazardous substances need to be recycled or disposed of as required by local regulations.
Besides burial, farmers and building owners can obtain burning permits from the local fire warden, or even arrange for the fire department to use the property for practice burns.
Experts from the Environmental Working Group estimated that asbestos-induced diseases, including malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer, claim 9,900 lives in the U.S. every year. Asbestos exposure can happen if your job requires you to handle the material, or if the soil surrounding asbestos-laden buildings that undergo renovation or demolition become tainted with mineral fibers. These fragments can attach themselves to people’s clothes or animals’ fur.
This is why it’s incredibly important that building and property owners act responsibly about asbestos exposure when it comes to demolition.