Asbestos can be found in a variety of home and commercial products. It was used extensively as a building material, most commonly in the form of fibro and asbestos cement sheeting. Asbestos is known to cause cancer and is therefore banned in most countries around the world. Many older buildings still contain asbestos, especially if they were built before the late 1990’s.
When asbestos is disturbed during demolition or renovation, it can be released into the air and pose a health risk to those who are exposed to it. To prevent this from happening, state and federal regulations require that a licensed asbestos inspector survey the site for friable asbestos prior to any construction or remodeling activity. If the inspection shows that there is friable asbestos in a structure, then a plan must be put into place to remove it safely.
A licensed asbestos professional has the experience, knowledge and equipment to correctly identify any ACMs on a property and conduct safe and effective friable asbestos removal. Licensed professionals are also required to wear a respirator, as well as use specific asbestos disposal procedures, including decontamination and sealing of the area after the ACM is removed.
The main difference between friable and non-friable asbestos is that friable asbestos crumbles, breaks or turns to powder with little pressure whereas non-friable asbestos does not. Non-friable asbestos is typically in a bonded form (such as asbestos cement sheeting), and is quite safe to work with if left undisturbed. However, general wear and tear, weather damage or ageing can cause bonded asbestos to become friable over time.
Friable asbestos is more dangerous to handle than non-friable as the fibres are more likely to become airborne. This is because they are able to be dispersed into the atmosphere more easily, and can cause health issues if inhaled.
Because of the dangers involved, only a licensed asbestos professional should carry out friable asbestos removal. Any attempt to do so by unlicensed personnel can lead to serious health issues for those involved, as well as costly clean-up costs and fines from local authorities.
An asbestos specialist will know the most appropriate removal method for each type of ACM. This is dependent on a number of factors, including the ACM’s location and its condition. In some cases, it might be necessary to sand, cut or grind the ACMs in order to make them easier to handle. However, this should only be done if the ACM is considered to be Category I friable.
Licensed professionals are also required to ensure that any ACM is properly bagged, sealed and/or labeled. Failure to do so can result in contamination and potential exposure to the public, as well as substantial fines for the ACM removal company.
In late 2019, an unlicensed removal firm was caught dumping improperly packaged asbestos waste in a Chicago suburb. The company was fined over $11,000 for releasing dangerous asbestos fibres into the air. If you are unsure whether or not your ACM is friable, contact an asbestos expert and arrange for sampling by an IANZ accredited laboratory.