Arkansas (AR) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

In the United States, asbestos is known as a naturally occurring, mined mineral that falls most commonly under three common categories: chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite (2).  This mineral is also widely known for its flexibility, strength, fire-resistance, poor electrical conductivity, insulating properties, and resistance to chemical corrosion (2).  Because few minerals with these same properties were readily available and as inexpensive as asbestos, asbestos was used widely beginning in the early 1940s to primarily in buildings, since facilities have the need to be properly insulated and fire-resistant, soundproofed, and decorated (2).  It is estimated that over 3,000 different products contain asbestos, some of the most common being older plastics, paper products, brake likings, floor tiles, textile products, sealants, cement pipes, cement sheets, and insulation (2).  Because asbestos-containing materials were so commonly used in the past in building materials, many homes still contain these materials.

Although asbestos has many positive qualities that make it a useful additive to building materials, since its wide use, it has been discovered that when asbestos-containing material deteriorates or becomes damaged or is disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers can be released into the air (2).  Because these fibers are light-weight, they can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time, where the can easily be inhaled or ingested and penetrate body tissues (2).  This makes all activities that could disrupt asbestos-containing materials, such as demolition or renovation projects, especially hazardous, as it can release large amounts of fibers that are undetectable by the human eye.  For this reason, it is required that in all regulated facilities, including public, industrial, commercial, institutional buildings, schools, and residential buildings with more than four dwelling units, all asbestos-related activities be handled by licensed professionals (2).  In 1990, Arkansas developed the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission Regulation 21 that is designed to regulate work practices during demolitions and renovations and to license asbestos supervisors and workers (3).  This regulation was revised in 1997 to also include regulations about work practices during response actions, and to certify inspectors, management planners, project designers, air monitors, license training providers, and establish a fee system (3).

Asbestos Licensing

To perform any asbestos-related activity in a regulated facility in Arkansas, a worker must be certified by the State of Arkansas in his or her specific field of either worker, inspector, management planner, project designer, air monitor, or contractor/supervisor (4).  To become certified, all workers must attend courses that are detailed to their field and vary in content and length according to their level of responsibility (4).  Inspectors must complete a 24 hour initial course, while workers complete 32 hours, contractors complete a 40 hour course, management planners are required to complete the course for inspectors in addition to a 16 hour management planner course, and air monitors must take the 40 hour contractor/supervisor course in addition to a 12 hour air monitor course (4).  Each course is required to have content that is specific to the individual field that it addresses.  For example, a general worker’s course must include the physical characteristics of asbestos, potential health effects related to asbestos exposure, employee personal protective equipment, state-of-the-art work practices, personal hygiene, medical monitoring, air monitoring, relevant federal, Arkansas, and local regulatory requirements, procedures, and standards, with particular attention directed at relevant EPA, OSHA, and State regulations concerning asbestos abatement workers, the establishment of respiratory protection programs, and a course review (4).  Each of these categories has many subtopics that must be fully addressed (4).  At the completion of the course, all categories of asbestos workers and professionals must achieve a score of at least a 70 percent on a written examination (4).  Even after this is complete, training does not end.  Licenses expire annually, so all licensed asbestos workers and professionals must attend refresher courses each year (4).  All of this content-specific training qualifies these different types of workers to collaborate and form comprehensive teams that can safely and appropriately handle all asbestos-related tasks while keeping themselves, other workers, the public, and the environment safe (4).

General Work Practices

During all demolition projects and renovation projects that involve more than 260 linear feet on pipes, 160 square feet on other facility components, or 35 cubic feet where the length could not be measured previously, workers in Arkansas must adhere to strict work practices that are designed to minimize the amount of asbestos fibers that are released into the air (4).  In general, it is necessary for all regulated asbestos-containing materials to be removed before any activity takes place that could damage these materials (4).  This removal must be done using strict procedures.  When facility components that contain asbestos must be removed, all of the materials must be adequately wetted prior to handling, and remain wet until it is sealed in airtight, containers labeled with warning stickers, and all materials must be carefully lowered to the floor without sliding, dropping, or throwing to minimize the amount of debris (4).  These warning labels must read "DANGER.  ASBESTOS DUST HAZARD. CANCER AND LUNG DISEASE HAZARD" (4). The only instances in which wetting is not required are when local exhaust and ventilation systems are established that capture the asbestos particles, a glove bag system is used, or the material is enclosed in leak-tight wrapping prior to dismantling (4).

In addition to this, air monitoring must be performed by a licensed air monitor and testing must be completed in labs that are approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (4).  If after the demolition, renovation, or other asbestos disrupting activity is complete, testing shows that an airborne fiber count exceeds 0.01 fiber per cubic centimeter, then the area must be cleaned again using wet methods and vacuums with HEPA filters and retested using aggressive sampling techniques before the area is considered safe (4).  All of these procedures, including equally strict disposal requirements, may see stringent, but they are necessary in order to keep workers, the public, and the environment free from asbestos exposure. 

The State of Arkansas is continually working to develop more time efficient, safer ways to handle asbestos.  In fact, Fort Smith, Arkansas is the site of an alternative asbestos control method demonstration project (1).  In this project, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to use this remote location to evaluate the efficiency of an alternative demolition method against current national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (1).  If this new method of demolition is proven as able to comply with these standards, then it will allow dilapidated homes around the country to be demolished more quickly so that new buildings can be constructed in their places (1).  Since asbestos exposure during demolition and renovation projects poses such a risk to those involved, many strict procedures must be adhered to, and trained professionals must perform all asbestos- related projects in regulated facilities.  Even though it is legal for homeowners of residences of four or fewer dwelling units to perform some asbestos-related activities on their own, it is highly discouraged, as it does not reduce the threat that asbestos exposure poses.  Fortunately, there are many asbestos professionals available within Arkansas who can provide assessments and advice to all building owners, and safely perform asbestos abatement if necessary. 

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