Asbestos was used frequently from the beginning of the 20th century in a variety of building materials. In the 1970s, the public learned what the asbestos industry had known for 60 years – that asbestos is highly toxic and that inhaling its fibers can cause lung scarring, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Although asbestos is no longer used in building materials, many older structures still contain the substance. Asbestos is most commonly found in ceiling insulation, but it is also often found in other materials, including:
- Dry wall joint patching compounds
- Stove or pipe insulation
- Floor tiles
- Furnaces and duct work
- Roofing materials
It’s usually impossible to detect asbestos fibers with a generic visual inspection. According to California asbestos regulations, only licensed professionals with specialized equipment are allowed to detect and report on asbestos presence. They will send their findings to a lab for further testing, where technicians will determine the type and concentration of asbestos, and thus confirm whether the building is dangerous.
If lab technicians determine that a home is dangerous due to the presence of asbestos, the homeowner has three options:
- Hire a professional to remove the asbestos.
- Use sealants to contain the fibers.
- Continue to live in the dangerous environment.
#1-Professional removal is the best choice for dangerous conditions.
#2-Sealants are next best, but are not always adequate to protect families and construction workers from asbestos exposure during renovation or demolition projects. Asbestos removal is recommended if a home or building is to be renovated or demolished.
#3-doing nothing is by far the worst choice!
California asbestos law requires employees and contractors working on asbestos projects greater than 100 square feet with an asbestos concentration above 0.1 percent to register with the Asbestos Contractors’ Registration Organization. Anyone handling asbestos must have certification. There are five types of certification:
- Supervisor or contractor
- Building inspector
- Project designer
- Management planner
Different certifications have different courses and requirements, but all must be completed in a state-certified training facility. Certifications must be renewed each year.
California asbestos law has strict regulations for asbestos abatement. On an abatement site, all workers must wear respirators and multiple layers of protective clothing.
There are four classes of abatement operations, and the class determines the regulations and procedures. Class I involves the removal of asbestos in thermal system [furnaces and duct work] insulation. Class II involves asbestos abatement in floor tiles, roofing, wallboard, sheeting, and construction materials. With both classes, projects must be completed in an enclosed and regulated area. All materials containing asbestos must be soaked in water before removal to limit airborne asbestos fibers, which are dangerous carcinogens. All asbestos-containing materials must also be intact when removed unless deemed impossible by the contractor.
Class III operations involve repair or maintenance work. They follow the same California asbestos regulations as Classes I and II, but they don’t allow the dry cutting of asbestos-containing materials. No asbestos-containing materials can be dropped or thrown on the ground. Instead, they must be carefully lowered and stored with “danger” signs.
Class IV operations involve maintenance or custodial work where employees contact but don’t disturb the asbestos. Those making contact with the asbestos and those performing other work in the regulated area must wear respirators and protective clothing.
The state of California requires everyone who handles asbestos to receive thorough training and education. Anyone involved in asbestos abatement in California should know the regulations for all classes of operations.