Removal Tools And Other Items Needed For Asbestos Abatement

The asbestos abatement industry is heavily regulated. Rules and regulations for the handling and removal of asbestos-containing material (ACM) are specified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and state and local laws. These rules usually apply to commercial and public buildings, residential buildings of more than four units, and the contractors who do the work. If you are a homeowner wanting to remove asbestos from your own home, you are usually exempt from these rules. However, safety and common sense dictate that you take extreme caution and use proper tools when handling any ACM in your home.

The first necessity, regardless of the type of ACM to be removed, is personal protective gear. The goal of this equipment is to cover you head to toe and to filter the air you are breathing to avoid any contact with asbestos fibers. Non-fogging goggles for eye protection, rubber gloves and boots, and disposable coveralls including booties will protect skin and eyes. You will need a special respirator with a pair of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. A garden-variety face mask of the type sold for dusty work will not protect you from asbestos fibers when you are working with friable ACM. Men  with beards may not be adequately protected by HEPA respirators because they cannot be fitted properly (1).

For completely nonfriable ACM that can be removed whole and undamaged, these personal protection precautions may be overkill. However, for common situations such as removing asbestos-containing ceiling or wall textures, insulation materials or floor tiles that are broken up during removal, free asbestos fibers are an invisible hazard not worth taking chances on.

Your second goal, after protection of your own body, is to protect the property you are working on and limit spread of asbestos fibers. You will need polyethylene sheeting (plastic sheets) of at least 2 mil thickness to cover walls and 6 mil thickness to cover floors, and duct tape. These should cover every part of the work area with only the material to be removed exposed. Cover all doorways with polyethylene as well with a slit cut in one doorway only to allow entrance/exit.

Safe handling of asbestos fibers requires keeping the ACM "adequately wet" as defined by the EPA National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) (2). Your next most important piece of equipment will be a tank sprayer for water to wet your materials. The water should be amended with a commercial wetting agent to help the moisture penetrate the fibers, or you can add one cup of liquid dish soap to five gallons of water (3).

Depending on the type of ACM you are removing, you will need various hand tools such as scrapers, utility knives, and scrub pads appropriate to the materials. Avoid sanding or sawing your materials (4). Under no circumstances should you use power tools, as these will make any ACM more friable. Do not sweep or vacuum ACM debris unless you have a heavy-duty HEPA vacuum designed for asbestos containment.

Finally, for clean-up, you will need a supply of disposable rags. You may need an encapsulant such as latex paint or an approved latex asbestos sealing product for surfaces after the ACM has been removed (1). All asbestos-contaminated materials should then be sealed in polyethylene bags of 6 mil thickness for disposal.

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