Asbestos is a term that’s been seen in the news more and more the last couple years. For homeowner’s, it tends to strike fear in their hearts because of the unknowns. What is asbestos? Is it dangerous? What do I do if I have it in my home? Is asbestos removal important for the average homeowner? These questions and many others are on peoples’ minds when new legislation comes up concerning homeowner safety, or asbestos spills are talked about on the news.
Encompass Environmental Provides Asbestos Removal in Grand Junction
At Encompass Environmental, we like to talk about asbestos to educate our community. We find that when people know what they’re dealing with when it comes to asbestos, they feel more at peace. Whether they need asbestos removal from their home or a simple asbestos test, people like to know the facts. So, this blog post (and the several that come after it) are going to be all about asbestos. Encompass Environmental performs asbestos removal in Grand Junction on both residential and commercial properties. Government, retail, office space, people’s homes. We have experience with it all.
When it comes down to it, asbestos isn’t dangerous so long as it’s kept in its solid state. So long as it isn’t disturbed, homeowners, building owners, property managers, and building inhabitants are safe. We feel it’s important for you to start this blog post with that information in mind. We’ll go into detail of why exactly that is the case. But for starters, let’s talk about what exactly asbestos is.
Do All Types of Asbestos Require Removal?
Asbestos is a mineral mined from the earth. Think of it like a rock. Companies actually set up mining sites for the specific purpose of excavating asbestos (we’ll get into why that is a little later). There are many forms of asbestos, or types. Like there are different classifications of rocks, there are different classifications of asbestos. Here are just a few of the different types of asbestos:
There are many more – this is just a beginning list, really. The types of asbestos don’t really matter. When it comes to homeowners, consider all types potentially harmful. One type of asbestos isn’t less dangerous when airborne than any other. We don’t give you this list so that you can go find out for yourselves which type of asbestos you may have in your home. It doesn’t matter. We give you this list just to illustrate the point that there are multiple types of asbestos, like there are multiple types of rocks out there. It’s just a mineral that we as a society decided at one time to regularly use in building our homes. Asbestos is common. If you find that you have it in your home, just realize you have naturally occurring minerals in your walls. And you’re not alone. Many, many people have asbestos in their homes, and they’re perfectly safe. Chances are, if you find asbestos in your home through as asbestos test, you’re perfectly safe too.
Asbestos Doesn’t Need To Be Removed So Long As Its Fibers Can’t Become Airborne
Asbestos “rocks” are composed of individual asbestos fibers. That’s what asbestos is. They are mineral fibers that we mine for use in homes, car brakes, cement, roofing, insulation, and many other things. When we put asbestos into material in our homes, we get the benefits that asbestos provides (more on that soon) without any of its potential dangers. So long as the asbestos containing material remains whole, those asbestos fibers can’t become airborne. Asbestos fibers locked into a wall, in your drywall, for example, can’t do you any harm. It’s just like having a few tiny rocks in your wall, here and there. No big deal. Once those microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne though, it can be like breathing in tiny rocks should you get near them. Only, those rocks are pointy and sharp. You can see how that could cause damage to a human body over time.
We will talk about asbestos health risks soon. Your biggest take-away for now though should be that, basically, we build our homes out of wood and mud. Naturally occurring elements. We also use rocks from time to time. Sometimes as accent pieces on our home’s exterior. Sometimes in the form of tiny minerals known as asbestos, in a home’s interior.
The Many Benefits Of Using Asbestos
You may be surprised to learn that asbestos usage is actually quite common in our society today. And not just in homes. Asbestos, because it’s a mineral (like a rock), is resistant to heat. It also cannot catch on fire. Asbestos can increase the lifespan of everyday products we use. And, it’s very cheap. It’s a very durable material that doesn’t cost much to add to things we already use. Humans have been making use of asbestos for literally thousands of years. This isn’t a new building material that we’ve recently started using. It’s only recent, in fact, that our society has recognized the dangers of asbestos (more on that later).
To start off this section, here are just a few of the ways that our society makes use of asbestos. Keep in mind asbestos’ heat- and fire-resistant properties:
- Pipe Exteriors/ Wrapping
- Brake Pads
- Vinyl Tiles
- Ceiling Tiles
- Popcorn Ceilings
- Joint Compounds
Again, this is a short list. Ancient civilizations seem to have used asbestos in lamps and candles. So, the potential and applied uses of asbestos are virtually endless. About as endless and human creativity.
Asbestos Removal In Grand Junction According To Home Build Date
But, more to the point of asbestos removal in Grand Junction. We all become concerned about the asbestos potentially in our homes, not the asbestos that might be in our car’s brake pads. We typically only see or hear about asbestos removal in properties in which we inhabit.
Asbestos was banned from manufacture in building-use material in the United States in the 1970’s. What that means is that for nearly fifty years in the United States it has been illegal for any company to produce insulation, roofing material, drywall, ceiling tiles, joint compounds, etc. that contain asbestos. We realized as a society in the 1970’s the danger that asbestos brings. Many people have heard some information like this before. It’s not uncommon knowledge. But what is surprising to most people is that homes built after the 1970’s can still (and often do) contain asbestos.
You would think, “hey, asbestos manufacturing is banned for properties. Our home was built in the early 2000’s. Our home doesn’t have asbestos.” Right? Well, we would all wish that, but it’s not necessarily true. It’s a frustrating truth, actually. Many people purposefully buy newer homes thinking that they’re safer – free from asbestos. The truth is that even though the United States banned the manufacture of asbestos-containing material in the 1970’s, it is not illegal to import such material. Furthermore, it is not illegal to build using asbestos-containing material. Remember how we said earlier that asbestos is a natural fire-retardant, and is inexpensive to apply to building materials? Well, contractors and suppliers love providing services with higher margins. We all may consider it unethical to use asbestos-containing material when we clearly know the dangers it involves, but that doesn’t make it illegal.
If you go to your nearby Lowe’s, Home Depot, or building supply store, you will find something on their shelves that contains at least trace amounts of asbestos. Guaranteed. It’s sort of a crazy world we live in, full of loopholes. The loopholes around asbestos are pretty big. On the bright side, it does seem like legislation around testing and asbestos removal are likely to become more strict in the near future. So, we can all breathe a little easier (pun intended) knowing that our society is moving in the right direction. Even if it is moving slowly.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Yes, asbestos was banned from manufacture in the United States in the 1970’s.
- There is a loophole. The United States allows contractors and suppliers to import asbestos-containing material even to this day. Our laws also allow for asbestos to be used in the construction of new buildings.
- You can find asbestos-containing material virtually anywhere.
- What this all means is that yes, even some homes built in 2020 will contain asbestos.
Just because you buy a home built after 1970 does not mean that your home does not contain asbestos. If you buy a home from the 1980’s, it does not mean that your home is asbestos-free. If you buy a home the 2000’s, you still have no guarantee. If you buy a brand-new home in a brand-new subdivision this year, in 2020, it could contain asbestos. We’re sorry to break the news to you.
Asbestos Removal in Grand Junction, CO
This is why Colorado has in place regulation 8 for asbestos safety. Regulation 8 requires that if thirty-two square feet of drywall is disturbed (removed, cut into, etc.) by a contractor, it must first have asbestos testing. This law is highly cumbersome but is in place for homeowner’s and property owners’ best interests. The reason the law is cumbersome is because thirty-two square feet is hardly any material at all. With virtually every remodel or renovation project, the law requires an asbestos test be completed. Asbestos testing is also not extremely inexpensive, and takes time for results to be completed. Then, if the test comes back “hot” (positive), the building must be abated (have asbestos removal work completed). Otherwise, the contractor is not allowed to finish the remodel/ renovation work.
Do you see how the public’s safety is actually in opposition to the contractor’s best interests? Contractors who follow the law and have all properties asbestos tested before removing or disturbing material create a likely scenario where they won’t be able to complete the job or get paid. If a contractor gets asked to do a kitchen remodel, for example, and calls in an asbestos test (again, according to Colorado regulation 8), the homeowner has to pay for that not inexpensive test. Then, if the homeowner finds out that their property does contain asbestos, now they have to pay out of pocket to have their property abated. Or, they have to simply be ok with their kitchen the way it is, because no contractor can touch it. After all asbestos testing is completed, the state is informed of properties that contain asbestos. So, it’s not like the contractor can just ignore the test’s results and proceed with the remodel anyway. They would face massive fines for that kind of transgression against Colorado’s law. And they would likely be found out.
The Many Problems With Asbestos Removal In Grand Junction
In a case like that, the homeowner is now stuck. They know they have asbestos in their home. Which, by the way, they would have to disclose to any future potential buyers if they were attempting to sell their home. They can’t get a contractor to work because the property hasn’t been abated. They likely can’t pay for abatement because it would be out-of-pocket and is often quite expensive. Best case scenario, they’d have the money for asbestos removal, but it would eat up all their money for the remodel. The contractor is out of work. The homeowner is out of money. And possibly, even probably, they don’t get the remodel they wanted. It’s a lose-lose for everyone involved. All for the sake of safety, after all, but that doesn’t make the situation feel any better.
So, it’s not uncommon for contractors to ignore regulation 8. If neither the homeowner nor the contractor knows if there’s asbestos in the homeowner’s property, there’s no need for abatement. It’s sort of a don’t-ask-don’t-tell scenario. The homeowner can sell their home without ever having to worry about disclosing to future buyers anything like asbestos. The homeowner can get the remodel they want, and the contractor can complete work and get paid. Of course, the only problem with this scenario is that now the property is at risk of a massive asbestos spill. Which happens. Actually, all the time, like what happened in Littleton, CO. It creates a sort of unethical dilemma.
Why It’s Worth It To Do Asbestos Removal In Grand Junction
We live in a strange society of often backwards values, but hopefully we can all agree that it is in fact more important to prioritize health and safety concerning asbestos than it is to have a new kitchen remodel. The remodel would be nice. But not breathing in sharp asbestos fibers into our lungs is better. Yes, the laws around asbestos removal and testing are a burden. They’re inconvenient because sometimes they prevent homeowners from getting the work finished that they want. The regulations also prevent contractors, at times, from finishing work and making money. But trust us, asbestos spills are far more costly.
If a home that contains asbestos has remodel work done anyway, and the homeowner later finds out they have asbestos… well, in that case, a company like Encompass Environmental gets called in for asbestos removal. However, we can’t just set up containment barriers and abate, like usual. Now, we have to clean up every part of the home because ducting will likely have spread the asbestos to every part of the home. What would have been a small job becomes a massive project. And a massive problem for the homeowner. Very expensive, and intrusive while work is being finished. Not to mention it’s a huge problem for the contractor who may be held liable for damages, plus fines for ignoring regulation 8. It’s no small deal.
Companies that remove asbestos like Encompass Environmental often get work in from contractors, remodelers, restoration companies (like our partner Delta Restoration Services), and asbestos testing companies. Most homeowners have no idea about regulation 8. Thus, they rely on professionals to warn them of the risks and to do the right thing in looking out for their safety.
Asbestos testing companies are trained to visit a property and properly test all surfaces for asbestos. They will typically take samples from every unique surface in an affected area. Affected area being defined as an area that sustained water damage, or where remodeling will take place once the test is cleared. The testing company is simply making sure that any material that will be disturbed does not have asbestos in it so there’s no risk of an asbestos spill. The goal is to make sure asbestos fibers aren’t going to be floating around when the contractor cuts into the drywall, for example.
Once the asbestos testing company has their samples, they put them into plastic bags and ship them off to the nearest testing facility. For Grand Junction, the near lab is in Denver. That means that homeowners have to schedule an asbestos testing company, then wait a few extra days to get results. Once the results are in, work can either continue if there is no asbestos, or work will have to be indefinitely on hold until the asbestos can be removed.
We’ve talked about it a bit so far, but the reason asbestos can be dangerous is that its tiny fibers can become airborne. When asbestos is in a solid state in drywall or other building material, we call it “non-friable.” It’s locked into the material and can’t be breathed in by humans. If someone were to cut into drywall with a saw, however, dust would be produced. This dust and the rough edging of the cut drywall would be considered “friable” material. Friable means that if there is asbestos in the material, it is now airborne, and could be breathed in.
For homeowners who know they have asbestos in parts of their home, it’s a good idea to regularly check those places. Look for wear and tear. If the drywall in your home that you know contains asbestos gets scuffed moving furniture, it may be worth patching it over, or calling a company like Encompass Environmental. It’s worth your long-term health to be careful with things like asbestos.
So, what are the health concerns of asbestos? If you own a home that you know contains asbestos, and the drywall gets scuffed, what are you looking at? Or if you have a contractor proceed with a remodel without testing according to regulation 8, what are you up against with your family?
These are the most common health risks associated with asbestos:
- Lung Cancer
Oregon State University has a good web page on the environmental health and safety concerns of asbestos, and what these health risks can do to a person. All of these health risks have directly to do with a person’s ability to breathe. The sharp, fibrous minerals that are asbestos can get lodged in people’s lungs. Over time, the sharp edges tear into lung lining, causing scarring or cancer. The body doesn’t have an effective way to remove asbestos fibers from the lungs. So, they can be lodged there for a person’s entire life. The longer asbestos fibers are in a person’s lungs, the more damage they cause. Indeed, one of the biggest reasons Colorado has regulation 8 in place is for children. Many schools are abated for the sake of protecting our nation’s youth. But Colorado also has more stringent asbestos testing laws in place so that kids don’t breathe in asbestos fibers from their parents’ kitchen remodel.
In an upcoming post we’ll go into more detail for what it really takes to perform asbestos removal in Grand Junction. Asbestos removal is a fairly complex process. It’s not just about wearing a respirator and cleaning up the dust after cutting out asbestos-containing drywall. Asbestos fibers can remain airborne for a long time, meaning that any do-it-yourself asbestos removal projects could put a family at serious risk. Professional asbestos removal companies use respirators, full-body personal protective equipment, containment barriers. Negative air machines, HEPA air scrubbers, water to knock asbestos fibers out of the air while working, and containment showers before entering and exiting work space. There’s a lot to it that the average homeowner just wouldn’t have the knowledge to do.
If you have any concerns about asbestos in your home or property, contact us. We are always available to help answer questions. We are also connected with asbestos testing companies in Grand Junction and the entire Western Slope. And of course, if you need asbestos removal on your home or property located in Grand Junction or nearby areas, we are experts at abatement.
*This post was written by Third Loft Marketing.