Specific procedures must be followed to remove asbestos from homes and buildings. This is to prevent the building from being contaminated with asbestos. This procedure is known as asbestos abatement. It needs to be done by licensed contractors and it is highly recommended that untrained personnel do not undertake asbestos abatement on their own. However, depending on how and where asbestos was first applied, users in the building may not be in any danger. If the fibers cannot become broken and dislodged, they cannot be inhaled, and obviously do not pose any risk to humans. Oftentimes though, asbestos was applied using a procedure called flocking, in which asbestos was placed inside technical ducts and in other small spaces that firefighters may have typically had difficulty gaining access to. This method of asbestos application is especially dangerous, as small particles can become airborne when workers drill holes in walls containing flocked asbestos.
Specialized equipment is needed for asbestos abatement, and even if the workers are protected, maintenance operations involving the removal of asbestos may release fibers into the air. Various safety steps need to be taken. Every effort should be made to make a secure and airtight environment for this work, and possible, all asbestos removal operations should take place when the building can be evacuated. Certain necessary steps are required to remove asbestos from:
Heating and air conditioning ducts
- Special care needs to be taken to fully seal the building from any possible contamination from asbestos particles by spreading plastic sheets over the ducts and any spaces in the walls or floors to seal the floor and surrounding area.
- The use of a special HEPA-AIRE negative air vacuum, built specifically for asbestos abatement, to connect to the airtight space, which draws all air and airborne particles through a special filter.
- The special filters used in these machines must be disposed of in accordance with hazardous materials regulations.
For other areas
- A fine mist can be sprayed over an area suspected to contain asbestos. This helps to settle the dust.
- Contractors spray a special chemical, an encapsulant, over the area.
- Contractors wear special one-piece coveralls designed to keep the wearer from coming in contact with the asbestos. This suit covers the head, hands, body and feet of the worker.
- It’s important to have an airtight environment both for the area and for the worker.
Air-testing equipment is also used for asbestos abatement. It measures the amount of asbestos in the air before, during and after the asbestos procedure. Contractors are required to keep asbestos levels below a certain reading. These levels must also be certified as safe before the work area can be unsealed and people are allowed to safely enter. Just recently, a new method of asbestos removal was developed by the Brookhaven National Lab, which allows asbestos to be removed from fireproof materials without reducing the flame retardant properties of the material. This method, which uses foam that chemically removes asbestos, removes the need to replace asbestos-containing substances.