Asbestos Removal During the Coronavirus Pandemic — Occupational Health & Safety

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Asbestos Removal During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The treatment of asbestos has become that much more precarious given the outbreak of COVID-19. Here are some tips for asbestos removal and caution against coronavirus with limited PPE.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Many industries have closed their doors to shelter-in-place, while many have remained open and deemed essential. Asbestos abatement professionals have been affected by the shutdowns around the country, too. In some ways they have been able to use this as an opportunity; however, shortages of PPE have certainly created challenges.

Asbestos was used in everything from insulation and masonry to ceramic tiles; therefore, the chances of finding asbestos containing products in your home, if built before the 1980s, are high. Exposure to the material has been determined to cause numerous health problems like lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. These findings prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the new use and partially ban the manufacture, import, processing and distribution of asbestos and asbestos containing products in 1989 throughout the United States. Unfortunately, asbestos exposure can still be a serious risk for those living and working in structures built before the 1980s.

If asbestos or asbestos containing products are found in a building, an abatement professional should be consulted promptly to determine the proper course of action. If the asbestos containing product is not damaged, it may be best to leave the material undisturbed. However, if it is damaged and asbestos is able to break off and become airborne, immediate action should be taken. Abatement professionals will safely test the material to confirm it is asbestos and determine if the area is safe for you to inhabit while they help you find the best solution. In some cases, the material can be encapsulated and left in place. In more severe instances, the material must be removed.

Asbestos abatement is an involved process that requires specialized equipment. It is crucial to create a sealed chamber where the removal takes place, utilize negative pressure in the containment area and use proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

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