Washington (WA) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

The Washington Department of Ecology describes asbestos as "several naturally occurring minerals that can be separated into fibers and spun into cloth of added to products (2).  Because of asbestos’ insulation, fire proofing, and sound proofing qualities, asbestos was used commonly in construction materials from the mid 1940s to the late 1970s (2).  Even today, some manufacturers still use asbestos in their fireproofing, insulating, soundproofing, and decorative products (2).  While there are many household products that could potentially contain asbestos, the most common are cement asbestos siding, cement asbestos roofing and felt, window putty, sprayed-on popcorn ceilings, acoustical tiles, sheetrock tape mud, wood stoves, vinyl asbestos flooring sheets, flooring tiles and undersheeting, older dishwashers and ranges, heat source coverings, pipe insulation, door and cover gaskets, and air duct coverings (1). 

Unfortunately, since the 1970s it has been discovered that friable asbestos, asbestos that can be reduced to dust by hand pressure, is a health danger (2).  When asbestos containing materials are damaged or disturbed, such as in demolition or renovation projects, tiny asbestos fibers can be released into the air.  These fibers are so miniscule that they can remain suspended in the air for a long time, where then can be inhaled or ingested and penetrate the tissues of the lungs or stomach.  After long-term, or intense exposure, asbestosis, hypertension, immunological effects, lung cancer, and other cancers can be developed after a long latency period.  Because of these health effects, asbestos is a regulated substance, so licensed contractors must be hired to handle any asbestos projects, including abatement, renovation, demolition, removal, salvage, and clean-up or disposal of asbestos-containing material.  These licensed asbestos professionals are required to follow strict regulations set forth by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Washington State Departments of Ecology, Health, Labor and Industries, and the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act, and some local agencies.  Each of these departments works together to ensure that workers, the public, and the environment are free from asbestos exposure. 

Sampling and Testing Requirements
Because demolition and renovation projects are so likely to put people at risk of asbestos exposure, it is required by the Department of Labor and Industries and the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act that a good faith survey and identification of asbestos-containing material be conducted by a licensed inspector.  Whenever a survey cannot be conducted for safety reasons, then all materials that were produced before 1980s must be assumed to contain asbestos.  Since the presence of asbestos fibers can only be determined by special kinds of microscopes, using methods such as the Polarized Light Microscopy Test Method, samples must be sent to approved laboratories for testing.  Although private homeowners are permitted to collect samples from their own homes to be submitted for testing, Washington recommends hiring professionals, as improperly testing materials may create more of a hazard that leaving them undisturbed.  Some of the precautions that should always be taken, even by private homeowners collecting their own samples are:

  • Closing off the area so that only the sampler is present during sampling
  • Wearing protective gear, such as gloves,
  • Shutting down heating and cooling systems so that asbestos fibers are not spread
  • Placing plastic sheeting beneath the areas to be sampled
  • Wetting the material with amended water before testing
  • Using amply sharp objects to avoid unnecessary damage
  • Sealing the samples in clean, airtight containers,
  • Carefully disposing of the plastic sheeting and using wet methods to clean surfaces and the outside of the container
  • Labeling the containers with the identification number and the location the sample was taken from
  • Patching the area to prevent further release

When laboratory tests have been completed, contractors will determine whether or not the building has enough regulated asbestos-containing material to be subject to demolition and renovation rules.  If it does have too much asbestos-containing materials present, then it is possible that the materials will need to be abated before any demolition or renovation activities begin.
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/hwtr/demodebris/pages2/asbsample.html

Asbestos Abatement Requirements
In order to keep themselves, other workers, the public, and the environment safe, whenever asbestos is handled, it should be done by hired professionals, and in cases of regulated facilities, it must be completed by professionals.  These workers are kept abreast of all rules and regulations and they adhere to these rules strictly to ensure the minimum amount of airborne asbestos fibers.  While the specific requirements in Washington vary according to what class the asbestos abatement falls under, some general requirements are necessary for all jobs.  For example, all asbestos-containing materials that are to be removed must be wetted with amended water prior to handling, and they must remain wet until they are packaged.  Cleanup and disposal must always take place as soon as it is practical to avoid the accumulation of debris and the potential for additional damage done to the materials.  On all sites for removal an airtight enclosure must be established with critical barriers.  Inside these enclosures, ventilation must be supplied that directs air away from the breathing zone, and a high efficiency particulate air filtering local exhaust must be established.  All employees must follow all established work practices, including the wearing of protective wear and respirators, and vacuums equipped with high efficiency particulate air filters must be used in cleaning processes. In all instances, air monitoring must occur to ensure that levels are within time weighted average limits.  High speed abrasive disc saws and compressed air removal methods without HEPA capture devices, dry sweeping, and employee rotation are prohibited on all jobs. http://www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Rules/Policies/PDFs/WRD2310.pdf

After this, it is the responsibility of the contractor to arrange for the proper disposal of the waste to a landfill that is approved to handle asbestos waste. All asbestos contractors are highly trained in this process and can arrange to have this dangerous waste safely transported and disposed of while adhering to the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.  To follow these rules, all waste must be wet and properly contained, asbestos may not leak from transportation containers, records must be kept, and the waste must be brought to an authorized landfill. All of these regulations are set in place to keep workers, the public, and the environment safe.  This is the reason that professional workers must be hired to complete abatement in all regulated facilities, and it is recommended that private homeowners hire contractors.  Asbestos abatement can be a dangerous process if it is not handled properly, and the experiences of these professionals can ensure that minimal asbestos dust is created.  Fortunately, there are many training sites and certified asbestos workers within Washington who can explain your options when it comes to asbestos related problems.

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