Identifying Asbestos Containing Materials in Demolition

Oregon Demolition and Asbestos Removal

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A naturally occurring group of silicate minerals, asbestos became a popular building material at the beginning of the 19th century because of its desirable physical properties. It was affordable, had decent tensile strength, absorbed noise, and resisted heat, fire and electricity. It seemed like a builder’s dream come true. Prior to the 1980s, contractors often used asbestos to insulate buildings, give them fire protection, and for a variety of applications.

Research into the implications of asbestos on human health began in the early 1900s, but the material was not banned in the United States until 2003. Because asbestos is present in many older buildings, Oregon demolition contractors go to great lengths to identify the material and remove it carefully before tearing down a structure.

Asbestos-Related Health Risks

In the early 1900s, researchers noticed a great number of respiratory ailments and deaths in towns that mined asbestos. Upon examining the bodies of those who died of asbestos exposure, scientists discovered asbestos fibers and scarring in the lungs. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, common ailments associated with asbestos exposure include asbestosis, pleural disease, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that there are no safe exposure levels in regards to asbestos fibers. Since being exposed to the material for a few days is enough to cause mesothelioma, demolition contractors exercise great care in accordance with the Clean Air Act to protect their workers and the public when removing asbestos from buildings.

Where an Oregon Demolition Company Finds Asbestos in Buildings

  • Asbestos-cement corrugated sheets
  • Asbestos-cement flat sheets
  • Pipe insulation
  • Roofing felt
  • Vinyl-asbestos floor tile
  • Asbestos-cement shingles
  • Fire retardant coatings
  • Bricks and block mortar
  • Fireplace cement
  • Heat-, fire- and acid-resistant gaskets
  • “Popcorn” ceilings
  • Textured wall coatings
  • Plaster or drywall joint compound
  • Fireproof drywall
  • Millboard
  • Asbestos-cement pipe
  • Spray-applied or surfacing materials
  • Vermiculite-attic insulation
  • Wall paneling, particularly surrounding windows
  • Cavities within walls and floors
  • Acoustic ceiling finishes
  • T-bar ceiling tiles
  • Soffits
  • Exterior side panels
  • Stucco
  • Floor leveling compound
  • Paper backings on sheet vinyl flooring
  • Water lines
  • Rainwater lines
  • Wire insulation
  • Backing of incandescent light fixtures

Many residential, commercial and industrial structures built prior to 1980 contain asbestos. Because builders were not legally required to stop using the material until 2003, buildings constructed after 1980 may contain asbestos. It is important to note that the EPA still allows the use of some asbestos-containing materials. For this reason, Oregon demolition workers include numerous precautions to identify and remove asbestos and other harmful substances during the planning stages, regardless of a building’s age.

Demolition Best Practices for Removing Asbestos

  • Common asbestos classifications:
    • Friable asbestos-containing material (ACM): Material that has more than 1 percent asbestos that can be crumbled, pulverized or made into a powder with hand pressure when dry
    • Nonfriable ACM: Any material that contains more than 1 percent asbestos, but cannot be crumbled, pulverized or made into a powder with hand pressure when dry; the EPA classifies nonfriable ACM into Category I and Category II, depending on the type of material
  • Asbestos identification and reporting: Before demolition work begins, contractors identify toxins in a site and the levels present. If specialists find evidence of asbestos, the contractor and building owner notify the regional Environmental Protection Agency office.
  • Inspection: After discovering asbestos, a specialist must identify the type and category of asbestos, as well as the condition of the materials. The individual may collect a piece of dry ACM into a sample bag and apply pressure to see if and how it crumbles. The specialist may also send the sample to a laboratory for testing.
  • Asbestos removal: After finding asbestos, a contractor must remove the respective materials before demolition begins if the building is structurally sound. During the processes, asbestos that is exposed during stripping, disjoining or cutting operations must be kept wet and lowered to the ground. Depending on the situation, the area might have leak-tight wrapping or an exhaust ventilation system with a collection system in lieu of wetting. Wetting and lowering asbestos-containing materials to ground level minimizes the potential of creating friable asbestos. Burning a building that contains asbestos is prohibited. If a building is structurally unsound, a contractor may demolish a building if the facility and materials are adequately kept wet at all times.
  • Expert on site: When demolition contractors remove or handle asbestos on a site, at least one individual accredited in Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants compliance regulations must be on-site. After specialists remove asbestos from a building, it’s considered “asbestos-containing waste material,” which has specific handling requirements after demolition. The asbestos expert helps ensure all parties follow notification, work practice, waste disposal and record-keeping requirements outlined by federal, state and local regulations.
  • Removal and disposal: Materials containing asbestos must be segregated and placed into leak-tight wrapping. If the materials can’t be removed or segregated safely, all the demolition material must be placed in the wrapping. When the volume of materials is too great, a contractor may place it into prepared dump trucks, provided that the materials remain adequately wet.

At Elder Demolition, our crews receive specialized ongoing training in the safe removal of asbestos. Because the cleanup process can be tricky, it’s vital to hire experienced professionals who go beyond basic EPA asbestos abatement requirements and receive regular training that exceeds OSHA standards. When you need to remove an old building, you can trust the Oregon demolition services that Elder offers to protect the health and safety of the public and environment.

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