Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that has been used extensively on roofs for many years. However, the material is also a danger to humans and can be a killer if not handled properly. Asbestos itself comes in many different forms; however, one of the most common uses is in asbestos cement. If you currently have asbestos cement present on your construction site, read below to understand the dangers and how you can clear the material from your working area.
Understanding Asbestos Cement
Asbestos cement is most commonly known as a material used to construct corrugated roofing; however, it also has other applications such as water tanks and drainage pipes. The material itself, as the name suggests, is a composite cement mixture made of asbestos and cement. The amount of asbestos contained within the mixture varies between applications; however, any concentration can be hazardous if fibers are released from the weathered surface.
Asbestos has received some bad press due to the dangers inherent with the material. Some sources distinguish between white asbestos and blue or brown asbestos. The type of asbestos encountered is not largely significant however, as all forms of the material can be dangerous to your health.
Dangers of Asbestos Cement
Although asbestos is safer when combined with cement, the material itself can still pose significant health problems if it is allowed to shed fibers into the air. If these fibers are inhaled, they can cause the development of life-threatening illnesses. The development of these conditions is slow; however, it's important that you protect yourself from asbestos as it is oftentimes too late once the diagnosis is made.
Specifically, asbestos is known to cause the following illnesses:
- Asbestosis – A serious condition that scars the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. Usually occurs after prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers and can become fatal if allowed to develop.
- Mesothelioma – A form of cancer that targets the lungs. Specifically, mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lungs that protects the digestive system. This form of cancer is extremely dangerous and is nearly always fatal.
- Pleural thickening – Thickening of the lung lining that causes excessive force to be felt on the lung itself. Can sometimes cause the lung to collapse due to the increase in pressure, which can be extremely dangerous if not treated immediately.
Removing Asbestos Cement
There is some confusion regarding the removal of asbestos cement and whether or not a license is required prior to removing the material. Simply put, asbestos cement can be removed without having to source a license; however, you have to ensure that you take proper precautions in order to keep yourself (and your surroundings) free from harm.
The main focus when removing asbestos cement is to minimize the chance of fibers releasing into the environment. Specifically, you can do this by:
- Taking care not to break sheets of asbestos as this will cause fibers to break away into the environment. You should always aim to remove sheets as a whole, rather than breaking them into smaller pieces.
- Being careful when passing sheets of asbestos to colleagues, as any sheet that is dropped will release fibers.
- Applying water to the sheets prior to working. This will keep any fibers on the sheet while you transport them.
Additionally, you should make sure to cover all surfaces with a light plastic that can be disposed of. This will avoid your equipment becoming contaminated with the material and means that you don't have to carry out a thorough cleaning of all tools.
Getting Rid of Asbestos
While you can remove asbestos cement as a DIY job, you shouldn't get rid of the material without the help of a qualified contractor. Not only will you face trouble with your state's health and safety board, but removing asbestos off-site is a very tricky task that requires a good deal of experience. As such, you should contact your local asbestos contractor at a site like http://dsbahr.com who will have the equipment and experienced manpower to remove the material from your construction site.