Asbestos-containing materials, such as insulation, fireproofing, textured or acoustic ceilings and walls, roof felts and papers, drywall joint tape, and flooring
When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling, or demolition activities, microscopic fibers can become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause cancer, asbestosis, and other significant health problems. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Where To Look
Asbestos is a mineral fiber used for fireproofing and insulation in building materials such as:
- Cement-based insulation (sheets, shingles, and pipes)
- Furnace, water heater, and heating duct blanket or tape insulation
Ceilings and floors
- Textured ceilings
- Ceiling panels and tiles
- Vinyl floor tiles and backing on vinyl sheet flooring
- Mastic adhesive
Roofing shingles and mastic
Several websites have lists of example products:
What To Do
For help with identifying asbestos-containing materials, see a photo guide provided by InspectAPedia.com. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) provides a factsheet for building owners and managers. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) provides additional information about proper management and disposal.
In many cases, it is necessary to hire a Certified Asbestos Consultant to conduct a survey of possible asbestos-containing materials. If asbestos is present, a Registered Asbestos Contractor should remove it prior to demolition.
The pre-demolition survey to identify asbestos-containing material should be conducted by Cal/OSHA Certified Asbestos Consultant, who must have detailed training, asbestos work experience, and pass a state examination. The survey consists of a thorough building inspection, collecting samples of suspect material and submitting them for laboratory analysis. You can find Cal/OSHA Certified Asbestos Consultants online or in the Yellow Pages under “Asbestos Consulting and Testing.” Check certification at this database.
BAAQMD requires notification of all demolitions of a structure, and/or any load-bearing building component and all renovations removing greater than 100 square feet of asbestos material. Contact BAAQMD to submit a notification at least 10 days prior to demolition. The one-page application describes the work, location, and duration. BAAQMD will issue a “J-number” that most municipalities require prior to the initiation of demolition or renovation work.
If any building materials contain more than 1% asbestos, they must be removed prior to demolition. Removal entails specialized containment, ventilation, and protective gear. For example, California regulations call for strict asbestos worksite control, including: access/egress restrictions; signage; covering floors and furniture with plastic sheeting; worker protections (typically Tyvek suits and respiratory protection); and establishment of a negative pressure containment area (vacuum pumps, filters, and plastic sheeting with duct tape). (CCR Title 8, Construction Safety Order, Article 4. Dusts, Fumes, Mists, Vapors, and Gases, Section 1529).
To protect worker and occupant safety, ensure compliance with detailed regulatory requirements (BAAQMD Regulation 11, Rule 2), and minimize liability, removal should be conducted by a Cal/OSHA Registered Asbestos Contractor.
Find a Cal/OSHA Registered Asbestos Contractor online or in the Yellow Pages under "Asbestos Abatement." Check contractor registration status at this database.
All asbestos-containing waste material must be kept wet and must be sealed in labeled, leak-tight containers. This waste must be deposited in an approved landfill. In many cases, the asbestos-containing waste is considered hazardous waste and must be transported by a licensed hazardous waste hauler using a hazardous waste manifest. Some municipal solid waste landfills have permits to accept asbestos-containing waste. Always call the transfer or disposal site for specific requirements before attempting to deliver asbestos-containing waste to any landfill or waste disposal facility.
Some property owners also hire a Certified Asbestos Consultant independent of the asbestos abatement company to assure that the work is performed properly and to ensure that it is safe to enter the area after the work is completed. The independent consultant may provide abatement project design, contract administration, supervision of site surveillance technicians, preparation of asbestos management plans, clearance air monitoring, and may prepare a closeout report summarizing the abatement work, worker health and safety measures, results of visual inspection, and any air sampling results to provide documentation of safety and regulatory compliance.
BAAQMD Asbestos Program
DTSC factsheet: “Managing Asbestos Waste,” December 2006
Cal/OSHA Asbestos certification program
U.S. EPA background information about asbestos
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