Asbestos: What you should know - and when to leave it alone!

Most of the time we encourage DIYers to dig in and get the job done, but when it comes to dealing with asbestos, it's often best left to the professionals. Before you pull on your DIY gloves, take some time to educate yourself on both DEQ and Metro guidelines regarding asbestos and asbestos disposal. 

WHY AND WHERE

Prior to the 1970s asbestos was widely favored for its durability and resistance to heat and fire. It was used in many products, including:

vinyl and tile flooring                    roofing shingles                                 ceiling materials
textured paint                                wall insulation                                   wire insulation
cement siding                                textiles                                                steam pipes
boilers and furnace ducts            oil and coal furnaces                        auto parts

Then it was discovered that exposure to asbestos can cause cancer. But even into the 80s some products still contained asbestos. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), "There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos, so contact with any amount of asbestos should be avoided."

REMODELING?

You could find asbestos in just about any room in your house. It's recommended that you have your home or workplaces surveyed by a licensed professional. This is especially important if you’re planning any sort of remodel. it's impossible to see the microscopic asbestos particles, samples must be collected and taken to a lab for analysis to determine whether or not asbetos is present. However a homeowner is permitted to collect samples from his/her own residence. The DEQ website lists specific steps to be taken in order to avoid exposing others to the hazardous fibers.

DEMOLITIONS

If a demolition is planned, DEQ requires you to have an accredited inspector survey any residence built before January 2004. Should asbestos be found, it must be removed and disposed of by a DEQ-licensed asbestos abatement contractor.

LEAVE IT ALONE

If you have asbestos in your home, sometimes it's best left undisturbed. If it's unbroken and not damaged, DEQ says it poses little danger. Repairing it could potentially release hazardous fibers into the air, jeopardizing you, your family and your neighbors. The terms used are 'friable' and 'non-friable.' Friable asbestos is crumbly, powdery or can shift at a touch and is considered dangerous because fibers can easily be released into the air and then inhaled. Fibers in non-friable asbestos are bound together in a solid form and are mostly considered low risk...unless they become damaged.

IF YOU MUST!

If it must be repaired or removed, DEQ strongly recommends hiring a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. However, a resident may make repairs or remove asbestos if  it is found in a home he/she owns and currently lives in.  There are sprays you can use that seal an unpainted surface and bind the asbestos. But it takes specialized equipment to remove asbestos, and you must deposit it in a landfill authorized to accept asbestos waste. Remember to fill out the necessary forms (found on the DEQ website) and notify the landfill at least 24 hours prior to making a drop off.

WORRIED ABOUT EXPOSURE?

If you’re concerned that asbestos has been released in your home, DEQ recommends the following:

  • Close off the part of the home where the release occurred.
  • Close off air ducts and vents.
  • Shut windows.
  • Tape bottoms of doors to prevent draft.
  • Contact a licensed asbestos abatement contractor or DEQ for information on what to do next.

Forms and recommendations are readily available on both the  DEQ and Metro websites. Pay close attention to the guidelines and err on the side of caution. Remember, the hazards are real and serious when dealing with asbestos abatement, not only for you, but for your entire community.

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MORE INFO FROM DEQ:

-Asbestos Information for Residential Homeowners 

- Hiring the right contractor: List of Licensed Asbestos Abatement Contractors

- Removal of specific nonfriable products:
   Floor Tile
   Roofing Materials
  Cement Products

-Maintenance and Repair

-Asbestos: Rules of Abatement

-Oregon Landfills Accepting Asbestos Waste

-Asbestos Fact Sheet: Demolitions 

METRO: Construction and Demolition Waste Acceptance Form
                Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events

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