New York (NY) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

Because of the need to properly insulate and protect buildings from fire, some of asbestos’ most common usages are in building materials.  Some of the most common of these products include joint compound, vinyl floor tiles, roofing supplies, plumbing, fireproofing, stage curtains, caulk, and insulation board, among others. (1).  Because this is such a common usage of asbestos, anybody who owns a building may discover products containing asbestos during renovation, repair, or demolition.   Unfortunately, the New York State Department of Health recognizes that airborne asbestos fibers, which often occur when products containing asbestos are disturbed during renovations, can be breathed in or ingested and cause serious asbestos related illnesses, including cancerous mesothelioma (2). Because of the possibility that hazardous asbestos fibers may be released into the air, the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and several departments of the New York State government have placed regulations on the usage, testing, and removal of asbestos within the state.

Testing for Asbestos

When a home or business owner begins repairs, renovations, or demolition, it is wise for the owner to have the area examined and tested to determine the concentration of fibers in a room or a building.  Because such tests require specialized equipment and training, it is generally necessary to hire a trained professional to complete the testing.  In New York, the company hired to assess the air has the right to decide upon the type of test is most appropriate for each situation (8). The types of tests that are acceptable in New York are Phase Contrast Microscopy, which is considered the least accurate, Transmission Electron Microscopy, and Scanning Electron Microscopy (8). None of these tests may be administered until the material has been drying for a period of 12 hours (8).  The number of samples required to test an area has a direct relationship to the size of the area that is to be tested and must be placed at random around the work area (8). New York also requires that "aggressive sampling techniques" are used, which entails air being forced against all surfaces before the sample is taken (8).  This helps to ensure that the tests accurately measure any disturbed asbestos.   If it is found after this testing that an area has concentrations of asbestos, a home or business owner should chose to hire a highly qualified, trained professional to either abate, encapsulate, or encase the area.

Hiring a Professional

In New York, all individuals who work in the field of asbestos removal and testing must receive their Asbestos Certificates of Competence and their Asbestos Handling Licenses (3). To become certified to handle or remove asbestos in New York, a person must attend a variety of courses, the content of which differs according to the relationship between their specific job and asbestos. New York offers specific courses in everything from asbestos handling, to project air sampling, to operations and maintenance, to inspections, and more (9). Each of these courses contain a large percentage contact hours and requires the attendance of annual refresher courses (9). The content of the core courses for the initial safety training program includes history of asbestos use, identification of asbestos, Federal, State, and local laws and regulations concerning asbestos, health affects of asbestos, abatement control options, medical monitoring, preparation of the work area and decontamination systems, and cleanup and disposal procedures (9).

While it is legal for New York homeowners to remove asbestos from their own homes, it is highly recommended to hire a professional to remove, encase, or encapsulate asbestos. These detailed courses prepare professionals in all aspects of safely removing asbestos. Because of the carcinogenic qualities of asbestos, many homeowners find that the cost of licensed, certified asbestos handlers is a small price to pay to keep themselves and their families safe. 

Asbestos Abatement

Abestos abatement in New York is strictly regulated by the EPA, OSHA, the New York State Department of Labor, and the New York State Department of Health, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  These departments regulate everything from the details of the processes used to remove asbestos, to the protective equipment that must be used and worn, and the transportation and removal of the toxic waste.   Because of these details, it is best to leave this dangerous task to trained professionals to avoid making costly errors.

Preparing for Abatement

Before the removal of asbestos by certified handlers of asbestos in New York even begins, professionals must follow regulated procedures.  To properly prepare a site for asbestos abatement in New York, a professional must ensure that the area is fully vacated with caution signs posted at all entrances, construct or install a project enclosure, including isolation barriers, provide an acceptable method of heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and shut off all electrical power (5).  When necessary, they may provide temporary power and lighting for the site (5).  The construction of the containment area is a very important process, as it prevents carcinogenic material from being spread to other areas where it may threaten the health of others.  In New York, isolation barriers are required to seal off all openings, including windows, doorways, and ducts and must be constructed using two layers of six-mill, fire retardant plastic sheeting with tape securing all seams (5).  After the containment area is built, the work area must be pre-cleaned with HEPA-filtered vacuum equipment or wet cleaning in order to avoid disturbing asbestos (5). All objects that are to be removed from the area prior to the abatement must also be cleaned in the same fashion prior to removal (5).  In the case of large projects, or removal that requires demolition, there are even more rules and regulations to adhere to in New York (5). 

The Abatement Process

When preparation is complete, the professionals may begin to complete asbestos abatement, for which they use a standard procedure with standard equipment. The professionals, in their protective coveralls, head coverings, foot coverings, gloves, and respirators (4) wet the area thoroughly with amended water frequently, ensuring that all fibrous materials are saturated (6).  There is absolutely no dry removal permitted by the New York Department of Labor, as it strongly increases the chances of asbestos fibers becoming airborne (6). The professionals then carefully scrape the material into approved, watertight containers that are labeled as hazardous (6).  In New York it is required that if the material is dropped further than ten feet, a chute must be used to minimize the possibility of contamination (6).  Each time a worker must exit the work area to retrieve a tool or for any other reason, he or she must go through the personal decontamination system and sign an entry/exit log in order to continue working (6).   Once the asbestos has been removed into air and water tight containers, the workers must clean the site and properly dispose of the hazardous substance (6).

Post-Abatement Cleanup and Waste Disposal

The first step in cleaning a site after all of the waste is appropriately contained, is the first cleaning (7).  New York requires the first cleaning to involve wet rags and mops, which are used to rid the area of the majority of contamination (7). After the room is free of visible residue, a coat of an encapsulating agent must be applied to all surfaces that were not the subject of asbestos removal (6).  The area that was subjected to removal may not be encapsulated until the site has achieved appropriate air monitoring results (6). Then, New York requires that that the cleaned plastic of the containment walls, floors, windows and doors be removed and disposed of (7).  After a 12-hour period, allowing any airborne asbestos particles in the air to rest, all surfaces are to be wet-cleaned and all of the remaining sheeting may be removed (7).  The third and final cleaning takes place after another 12 hours, during which a negative pressure ventilation unit is operated and all surfaces are cleaned again (7).  At this point, all waste is removed to a holding area, and all tools are cleaned and removed from the site (6). In another 12 hours, when all surfaces are completely dry, area is tested for air clearance (7).  Once air clearance is achieved, workers can go through the decontamination process, the isolation barriers can be removed, and the asbestos abatement is complete, and the area is now safe for use or demolition.

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. If you believe that your home or business may be contaminated by asbestos, protect yourself and your loved ones by have dangerous asbestos, you can contact one of a number of trained professionals right here in New York who will explain your options.

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