North Carolina (NC) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

The North Carolina Department of Public Health Division of Epidemiology describes asbestos as "a group of naturally occurring minerals made up of tiny, easily inhaled fibers" (1).  Asbestos is commonly known for its high tensile strength, its thermal and acoustic insulating properties, and its resistance to chemical abrasion, heat, and fire (1).  Because of these desirable properties, asbestos was commonly used in a variety of building materials before the mid 1980s to provide home and business owners with strong, fire-resistant buildings (1).  Some of the materials that North Carolina recognizes as common products that could contain asbestos are steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts that are insulated with asbestos blankets, cement sheeting, milling, and paper used around furnaces and wood burning stoves, soundproofing and decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings, patching and joint compounds, textured paints, asbestos cement roofing shingles and siding, resilient floor tiles, vinyl sheet flooring, and adhesives used for installing floor tiles (1).  For this reason, many people still live and work in buildings that were built before the mid 1980s and contain asbestos (1).

Since the mid 1980s it has been demonstrated by medical scientists and researchers that long-term, intense asbestos exposure can develop into lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (1).  When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, such as in renovation or demolition activities, the fibers can be loosened and enter the air (1).  Once the fibers are airborne, they can be easily inhaled in the lungs or stomach, where they can remain and eventually develop into these serious health conditions (1).  Because of this health risk, the all aspects of asbestos-related activities are regulated from training requirements to inspection procedures, emission control, safety equipment, air monitoring, abatement practices, and disposal protocol (1).  These requirements, set forth by the federal government, the State of North Carolina, and local governmental agencies and all strive to prevent the emission of asbestos fibers, thereby preventing asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Professionals

The State of North Carolina requires that all individuals who perform asbestos-related work on a regulated facility be licensed before beginning or continuing work. While it is legal in for unlicensed individuals to perform asbestos activities in their own residences of fewer than ten units, it is recommended that even private homeowners hire professionals for safety reasons (3). The State of North Carolina separates asbestos professionals into six categories, including workers, supervisors, inspectors, management planners, project designers, and air monitors (2).  Since each of these types of workers have different duties, and their direct involvement with asbestos and level of responsibility varies, each type of worker must attend a specialized course in their area that is approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (2).  One of the ways in which these courses vary is their length, as courses can range from two-day courses to five-day courses (2).  The content of these courses is also specific to the duties of the particular training areas.  The purpose of these courses is to provide workers with the information that they must know to minimize the emission of asbestos fibers and keep themselves, other workers, and the public safe by following strict regulations.  In fact, all asbestos workers must attend annual refresher courses to stay abreast on all of the latest safety regulations and requirement and all new safety technology.

Necessary Supplies, Equipment, and Safety Gear

One of the ways that the training courses prepare their students to do their jobs safely is by teaching them to handle proper, specialized equipment, and how to wear the necessary safety gear.  Since asbestos abatement is done almost exclusively by asbestos professionals, much of this equipment is highly specific.  The list of equipment that the State of North Carolina gives includes HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners with appropriate bags, HEPA-filtered negative air units, airless sprayers, powered air-purifying respirators, half-face dual-cartridge respirators, manometer with chart-recording mechanism, a portable shower decontamination unit with hot water heater and 5 micron filtration system, ladders, and assorted hand tools (2). The list of other supplies is much longer, and includes fire-retardant 6-mil polyethylene sheeting, replacement filters and bags for HEPA vacuums, replacement filters for HEPA negative air units, replacement filter cartridges for half-face and PAPR respirators, replacement filters for water filtration systems, glovebags, 6-mil polyethylene asbestos waste bags with asbestos caution and waste generator labels, duct tape, asbestos caution barrier tape, labels, and signs, spray glue, encapsulant, amended water wetting agent, waste disposal drums, rags,  smoke tubes and aspirator bulbs, and reinsulation materials (2).  Even in addition to all of these items are personal protection items, including disposable Tyvek full-body coveralls with head and foot coverings, disposable rubber or Tyvek gloves, rubber boots to wear in conjunction with respirators (2).  This extensive equipment is all necessary to safely handle asbestos abatement procedures, and while these may be difficult and expensive for members of the public to locate and purchase these items individually for only one project, hired contractors have all of these materials easily accessible to them.  This is another reason why many owners of residences comprised of fewer than four dwelling units choose to hire asbestos professionals to complete abatement project, despite the fact that it may be legal for them to perform their own asbestos-related activities.

General Abatement Work Procedures

In order to meet strict regulations, asbestos abatement workers must adhere to strict rules. Before a large scale abatement project can begin, a detailed plan for the execution of the abatement should be created by a licensed project designer, which must be followed unless changes are submitted in writing (2).  A containment area and decontamination unit must be established prior to asbestos handling, along with aggressive air monitoring techniques (2).  Samples of air must be tested from both inside and outside of the containment area to ensure that asbestos fibers are adequately contained within the unit and that those inside the unit are taking necessary respiratory precautions (2).  For example the types of respirators that must be used vary along with the intensity of exposure (2).  In all instances, standard work procedures must take place such as wetting asbestos-containing materials before handling, using wet methods of cleaning, and properly disposing of all asbestos waste (2).  All of these practices are very specific, and sometimes the details vary according to the kinds or quantities of asbestos-containing materials, and other situational factors.  Fortunately, asbestos professionals are highly trained in work procedures for each specific instance, which is why it is required that all abatement projects in regulated facilities are completed by licensed professionals.

Encapsulation and encasement are two other abatement options that may prove to be more cost efficient than asbestos removal; however these methods involve closing off the asbestos-containing materials instead of ridding the area of it, so it is not usually appropriate in demolition or renovation activities.  If you are planning on renovating or demolishing a building, or you suspect that there is damaged asbestos-containing material in your home, contact a North Carolina asbestos professional.  Handling such a dangerous material on your own is illegal in most situations and could put you, your family, or your employees at risk of asbestos exposure.  Fortunately, there are many qualified asbestos professionals throughout North Carolina who can assess your needs and help you to create and execute a plan to solve any asbestos-related problems. 

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