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Friday, November 29, 2019

Asbestos – The three options when addressing asbestos in building materials are: first, full blown removal; second, do nothing and leave it alone; and the third, in-place management.

I’ve been involved with the asbestos industry for over 40 years. Started out being trained and certified as an Asbestos Supervisor, followed with being certified as a project designer for Asbestos and other hazardous materials. Later, I used all my experience, knowledge and expertise in both extensive coatings and solid hazardous material to help people understand the complicated issues and make sound, informed decisions in dealing with them.

In the beginning, there were a lot of information on how bad asbestos is and how to deal with it. The information you would receive depended on who you were speaking with, how ethical they were and what was motivating them. Sometimes that information may not be complete. As time went on, more information has been made available for making better decisions.

This is an industry that lends itself to half-truths at best and lies of omissions at worst. Many of those that were making money off removal and replacement, trucking hazardous material and the dumps had interest in pushing full on removal.

The two options that were always presented to clients when considering what to do with asbestos was to either fully remove it or do nothing. The leave it alone option always came with the ominous warning that if left in place, even if it was in good shape, may expose occupants to its deadly fiber. Many times, this warning was stated to promote the removal for creating business and in turn earning more profit.

Fully removing asbestos in building materials is often difficult because it is made up of microscopic fibers that can be easily released when disturbed. Considerable precautions need to be taken when removing the material, especially in occupied buildings where the potential for exposure is greater than unoccupied buildings that are slated for demolition. These added precautions required in dealing with asbestos drive up the overall cost as opposed to treating normal building materials. The extra cost is often the deciding factor of how to deal with asbestos.

Even though there are many that pushed for full removal and replacement, I have worked with sophisticated and ethical professionals that have directly spelled out that even though they can make more money removing and replacing asbestos they would state, "that’s not the best for my clients." Quite often, the best and most economical option is to simply manage it in place. This can entail completely enclosing the material with hard barriers, by framing around it and then covering with plywood, drywall/sheetrock, etc. The other option and the easiest way to go is with a coating. Basically, any coating will work initially, although a cheap coating would only be a temporary fix and could end up causing more trouble down the line as it ages and begins to fail. A cheap coating is never a good option, especially on an exterior application where all types of attacks from the weather and UV rays can accelerate a breakdown.

I’m one who believes that one size doesn’t fit all and that every situation is different, deserving a case-by-case analysis. That evaluation needs to take into account all aspects of a job and situation, including the client’s personal needs such as time lines, cost factors and long-term goals with the property and its occupants. All these factors can come into play in different ways depending on things such as the property classification – whether it is residential, commercial or industrial. There can be big differences in considering building downtimes, personnel relocation, production loss and completion dates.

This is why the third option of in-place management is the most practical and, most often, a much simpler method than full-blown removal and replacement.

Asbestos has a long history of both being a great building material for its incredible fire resistance and then a dangerous health hazard for its microscopic fibers that is extremely harmful when inhaled. Because of its building properties, it is in and on millions of building surfaces worldwide and still widely in continued use.

Although all circumstances are different and should be treated accordingly, In place management with the right coating is often the best way to deal with asbestos in buildings, roofing, and on other structures.

To learn more about how to deal with your particular asbestos situation contact me at:


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