Asbestos: What Is It and How Does It Impact California Worksites?
In the early 20th Century, cities all around the world were springing up, and a search was on to find the newest modern building materials for a world ready for a future of innovation and design. The days of wooden slats and lathe and plaster interior walls were reaching their twilight, and soon a material that had been known for hundreds of years was about to be found everywhere.
What is Asbestos and Why is it Hazardous?
Asbestos is a fibrous naturally occurring silicate mineral which is mined from the earth. It is very common and is derived from any one of six minerals:
One of its most characteristic properties is its ability to withstand heat, essentially making it fireproof. Due to its structure, it can be added to ceramic, composite tile, concrete, and even cloth. For centuries asbestos was prized for its ability to make cloth and pottery fire resistant. By the 20th century, extraction methods improved, and new materials were designed with asbestos at their core to meet the needs of modern architecture.
The fibrous structure also allowed lighter building materials to be made stronger. The only drawback was that due to the fibrous nature of asbestos and its extreme durability, even under flame, it became “friable” and particulates could enter living tissue as dust particulates. There they would remain, causing irritation to soft tissue, and even causing cancer. Especially in the lungs and other membrane tissue.
From 1928 to 1977, asbestos was found in just about all building materials. This also happens to be the period of time California was experiencing its fastest period of growth, which means a large number of structures are affected by this material. Breaking it apart means a risk of exposure to a material which aggressively attached itself to living tissue due to its physical structure. New legislation enforcing asbestos requirements in California addressed the potential hazards it posed to the population, especially in mining, shipping, construction, and demolition industries which handled asbestos on a regular basis.
The potential to cause life-threatening injury if asbestos enters not only human-occupied areas, but also the environment is why proper testing and removal is so important.
Asbestos testing and abatement
Asbestos removal and disposal require special training, equipment, and disposal methods. This process is called abatement and only reputable companies with the proper equipment, licenses, and technical expertise are permitted to remove asbestos in the state of California.
In accordance with State and Federal Law asbestos is listed as a carcinogen and must be handled as a hazardous material aligning with the California asbestos regulations. Sometimes this is determined necessary based on the age of a structure and the materials which would have been used at the time. Also, materials containing asbestos are often readily identified, especially by seasoned contractors who are used to seeing such materials in the field.
The process to identify and contain asbestos goes as follows:
- A reputable and licenses company such as Essel Environmental must be hired to perform testing
- Air samples and surface samples are obtained and tested in a laboratory to test for the presence of asbestos
- Surfaces can vary, from floor and ceiling tiles to wallboard, concrete and composite pipes
- If asbestos is found, abatement must take place
- Only registered and licensed asbestos abatement companies are permitted to perform abatement
- Workers must wear protective gear and have respirators
- An area to change clothing/equipment must be established to prevent containment to the outside area
- Areas must be cordoned off with signs posted as to the danger of asbestos
- Abatement areas must be properly ventilated with maintained negative pressure on protective plastic tenting containing the area
- Waste materials must be double-bagged and tied in marked color-coded plastic bags
- Waste materials must be taken to an approved waste materials site for disposal
- Contaminated clothing must be treated as hazardous materials and disposed of properly
- Non-friable materials must be properly contained and indicated if removal is not necessary or possible
- After abatement a process of testing is also required.
- Inspection passes if area is determined to be successfully abated and free of friable particulates.
Asbestos in California
By California law, contractors are prohibited from providing asbestos testing or abatement. Also, anyone with a proprietary interest in the site is also prohibited. This is why you need a reputable, licensed company to perform these services. These California asbestos laws have been put into place to protect you and ensure the environment is kept safe from toxic contaminants.
For all information on the California Health and Safety Code and the exact asbestos requirements for California structures, visit www.dir.ca.gov for insight into the laws and regulations. Or just call our experts at Essel Environmental for to set up testing for your site today!