Hawaii (HI) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

According to the Hawaii State Department of Health, asbestos includes chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite asbestos, anthophyllite asbestos, actinolite asbestos, and any of these minerals that have been chemically treated and/or altered (2).  This mineral is naturally occurring and separates into strong, tiny fibers that are heat resistant (3).  For this reason, asbestos was used widely in construction materials including cement pipes, wallboards, and siding; asphalt floor tiles; vinyl sheet floor tiles; flooring backing; construction mastic; acoustical and decorative plaster, taping compounds; textured paints; ceiling tiles and panels; spray-applied insulation; blown-in insulation, high temperature gaskets; and packing materials (3).  In these materials, asbestos provides the products with fire-resistant, insulating qualities, and since 1900, 30 million tons of asbestos have been used (3).

Unfortunately. The Hawaii State Department of Health also recognizes asbestos as a health hazard. When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, the asbestos can break into microscopic fibers (3).  These fibers can become airborne, where they can be inhaled into the lungs, penetrating the lunch tissue.  Once in the tissue, it remains there for long periods of time since the fibers are so strong that the body cannot break them down (3).  With enough exposure to these fibers, people can develop serious illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma twenty to forty years after exposure (3). Although intact, undisturbed asbestos-containing material does not present an immediate health threat, and in certain circumstances encapsulation or encasement may be sufficient to solve asbestos problems, in demolition and renovation projects, asbestos must be abated before the project can begin (3).  Since demolitions and renovations are largely destructive, any renovation that may disturb asbestos-containing material that contains great than one percent asbestos and all demolitions and renovations of regulated facilities in Hawaii must follow strict requirements (3).  In Hawaii, regulated facilities include any commercial, public, institutional, industrial, public, or institutional building (3).  While single-family homes are excluded from regulations, it is always recommended that even homeowners hire professional asbestos workers whenever the suspect that asbestos may create a problem.

Asbestos Professionals

In order to perform any task related to asbestos, all workers must be certified in their particular areas (1).  In Hawaii, asbestos workers are broken into six categories: asbestos workers, asbestos supervisors/contractors, inspectors, management planners, project designers, and project monitors (1).  Each of these types of workers had specific duties that they must fulfill, and they may not perform duties that they are not trained in (1).  For example, asbestos workers are responsible for performing abatement work that is designed by a project designer, and performing small-scale, short duration, or emergency activities (1).  An inspector, on the other hand, is responsible for collecting samples from suspect material, evaluating the condition of asbestos-containing materials, inspecting buildings for the presence of asbestos containing materials, formulating plans for bulk sampling strategies, and determining whether or not asbestos-containing material is friable or nonfriable (1).  Each type of worker must complete a training course and pass a written examination, the length and content of which is dependent on the type of certification they wish to receive (1).  For example, the asbestos worker initial training course must be four days long and include lectures, demonstrations, fourteen hours of hands-on training, individual respirator fit testing, course review, and at least one written examination (1).  The content must include the physical characteristics and identification of asbestos, potential health effects related to asbestos exposure, employee personal equipment, state-of-the-art work practices, personal hygiene, additional safety hazards, medical monitoring, air monitoring, relevant federal, state, and local regulations the establishment of respiratory protection programs, and review (1).  The other categories have equally specific training courses (1).  Once certified, licenses expire each year, so workers must attend annual training classes (1).  All of this training provides asbestos professionals with the knowledge the need to keep themselves, others, and the environment safe from asbestos exposure, which is another reason why even private homeowners are recommended to hire professionals.

The Abatement Process

Preparing the site

There are many regulations enforced when preparing the asbestos removal cite that must be adhered to before abatement even begins.  First, Hawaii requires the posting of warning signs at all approaches to the regulated areas at a distance so that individuals have time to take all precautionary measures before being potentially exposed to asbestos fibers (2).  These signs must read "DANGER. ASBESTOS.  CANCER AND LUNG DISEASE HAZARD. AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY"(2).  Wherever it is necessary for respirators and protective clothing to be worn, there must also be warning signs that state "RESPIRATORS AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING ARE REQUIRED IN THIS AREA" (2). Before any abatement begins, the area must be set up with a local exhaust ventilation and dust collection system must be designed and constructed.  Proper tools must be obtained so that all tools that have the ability to create asbestos dust are fitted with filters (2).  In addition to this, all workers must be fitted with respirators and provided with other protective gear (2).  All respirators must be tight fitting, powered air-filtering respirator instead of a negative pressure respirator (2).  Other protective gear includes coveralls, gloves, head and foot coverings, face shield, goggles, and anything else appropriate for a specific job (2).  Hygiene facilities must also be provided, including changing and clean rooms, showers, and clean lunchrooms (2). 

Abatement Regulations

When abatement occurs, there are more regulations in Hawaii that must be adhered to that are designed to prevent the creation of dust.   Throughout the abatement process, the air must be continually monitored to ensure that no employee is exposed to air that contains more than 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air as an eight hour time weighted average (2).  The filtered ventilation systems should ensure that this is not a problem (2).  A work practice that prevents asbestos dust from becoming airborne is thoroughly wetting the material before it is handled, mixed, applied, removed, cut, or stored (2).  Once the material is removed, it must be placed in asbestos waste containers that are labeled with the warning "DANGER. CONTAINS ASBESTOS FIBERS. AVOID CREATING DUST. CANCER AND LUNG DISEASE HAZARD" (2).

From there, it is the duty of the contractor to arrange for the proper transportation and disposal of the asbestos waste materials.  All asbestos supervisors/contractors are trained in this area and know that they must contract an approved landfill at least a day in advance, and transport the materials without disrupting the materials (4). Fortunately, there are many licensed asbestos workers in Hawaii who can help residents and business owners to understand their options and create a plan to handle any asbestos related problems. 

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