Colorado (CO) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment defines asbestos as several "naturally occurring minerals," that have previously been mined because of their "thermal insulation, chemical and thermal stability, and high tensile strength," and separates them into 6 different regulated groups: Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, Anthophyllite, Tremolite, and Actinolite (3).  Because of these qualities, asbestos is often found in acoustic insulators, thermal insulation, fireproofing, making asbestos common in products used to construct buildings (3).  Some of the more common materials that contain asbestos are roofing, flooring, wallboard, insulation, and piping (3). In most situations, the presence of asbestos in a home is not a health hazard (3).  However, when asbestos containing materials become damaged and the asbestos fibers become friable, or able to be reduced to dust by the pressure of a hand, it can pose a health threat (3).  When these friable fibers are disturbed, such as during a renovation or demolition, they can become airborne, where they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems.  Some of the health problems that the state of Colorado recognizes as potential asbestos related diseases are asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer, which are all potentially fatal diseases (3). Because of this risk, home and business owners who plan on completing demolition or renovation projects must have their buildings inspected for asbestos before potentially putting themselves, their families, and the environment at risk, and deal with any dangerous asbestos before continuing (2).  In fact, it is illegal to disturb improperly disturb asbestos containing materials (2).

Hiring a Professional

In order to become a certified General Abatement Contractor, Building Inspector, Management Planner, Project Designer, Abatement Worker, Abatement Supervisor, or Air Monitoring Specialist, must annually take and pass a closed book examination on all of the training material covered, which varies for their specific fields (1).  For example, an Air Monitoring Specialist course will cover the roles and responsibilities of their position, federal and state laws, air monitoring strategies, response actions, building systems, protective equipment, health issues, visual inspections, record keeping, legal responsibilities, and other topics (1). If they fail to pass this exam, the must attend remedial courses before attempting the exam again (1).  All of these workers are also required to take refresher courses each year, ranging from four to eight hours, before their licenses expire in order to have them renewed (1). All of this training keeps licensed professional up to date on how to best keep themselves, their workers, and the residents of the buildings safe (1).  The handling of asbestos should never be attempted without certification.

Inspection

In Colorado it is required that any building or part of a building that is to be renovated, demolished, or disturbed is inspected for asbestos by a certified asbestos inspector, which can be found easily online or in the phone book under "Asbestos Consulting and Testing" (1). In order to properly inspect a building according to Colorado law, an inspector must go through a variety of steps.  First the inspector must visually inspect the area to determine the locations of any asbestos containing materials and touch these areas to determine whether or not the asbestos fibers are friable (1).  For any highly concentrated areas of suspected friable asbestos, the inspector must collect samples (1).  To do so according to Colorado regulations, he or she must take at least three samples from each suspected area that is over 1,000 cubic feet (1). Once the samples have been assessed, the inspector must then file an inspection report (1).  If it is determined that the levels of asbestos concentration exceed certain levels, a certified asbestos remover must abate the asbestos before any renovations or demolitions can occur (1).

The Abatement Process

Pre-Abatement

Asbestos abatement can only be legally performed by licensed professionals (1).  Before the removal of asbestos can begin, asbestos handlers must adhere to strict regulations regarding pre-abatement procedures. The pre-abatement procedures serve to protect both people and environment from asbestos exposure and include the installation of critical barriers, establishing negative pressure, constructing the decontamination area with a clean room, shower and equipment room, pre-cleaning the surfaces, covering fixed objects, and constructing the containment area (1).

Asbestos Removal

Once the area is ready, the workers put on their protective gear and begin the abatement process. All materials must be kept wet until they are property contained (1). Each time a worker enters or exits the area, they must do so through the designated decontamination unit (1).  To start, the workers must spray amended water to saturate all asbestos containing materials that are to be removed using airless sprayers (1). The workers then remove the asbestos containing material, keeping the material intact whenever possible (1).  When asbestos must be removed from heights, it must be carefully lowered to the ground to be properly disposed of in containers that are labeled "Danger. Contains Asbestos Fibers. Avoid Creating Dust. Cancer and Lung Disease Hazard" (1). Once the air has been tested and has achieved safe levels, the workers must begin the cleanup and waste removal process.

Asbestos Waste Removal and Cleanup

When the asbestos has been removed following all regulations, the workers must then clean up the site, tear down the containment building, and dispose of the hazardous waste. Thorough wet wiping and vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum must take place before any of the barriers can be removed (1). When it is safe for barriers to be removed, they must remove the barriers, take down the negative machines, take down the decontamination unit, and finally clear out and take down the waste load out area (1).  When handling asbestos waste, all material must be placed in air and water tight containers to be transported to certain waste sites in accordance with the Colorado Department of Public and Environment Health, Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division regulations. It is the contractor’s responsibility to understand these regulations and arrange for this waste removal.

Because asbestos abatement is often quite expensive, there are also the options of encapsulation and encasement, which involve not removing, but enclosing the hazardous material. However, these are not always options in the case of demolition or renovation since any encapsulant or encasement may be damaged. If you believe that your home or business may be contaminated by asbestos, protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of asbestos.  You can contact one of a number of trained professionals right here in Colorado who will explain your options.

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