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  • Rob DeMalo

“Hear Asbestos. Think Prevention.”

This Motto Still Holds True Even Today

On the heels of the Global Asbestos Awareness Week earlier this month, Indoor Environmental Concepts (IEC) wants to do its part by keeping the spotlight on the deadly carcinogen – asbestos.

Each year, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) dedicates April 1-7 to increasing awareness of asbestos and preventing exposure. According to the ADAO, "over 40,000 American workers died from preventable asbestos-caused diseases in 2019" and yet use of this known carcinogen continues to this day. For years, studies have shown inhaling asbestos fibers in the workplace and housing can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. The truth is that there is no safe use of asbestos.

To help further the “Hear Asbestos. Think Prevention.” Movement, we have drawn together some key facts and frequently asked questions, including the basic...

What Is Asbestos?

Simply defined, asbestos is a mineral fiber – one that can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope. In fact, there are six (6) regulated types of these easily inhalable fibers, including Chrysotile, Actinolite, Amosite, Anthophyllite, Crocidolite and Tremolite – all long, hard-to-pronounce names and all dangerous despite some variance in the level of hazard.

Sounds ominous but let’s look at some good news … Most products made today do not contain asbestos and any of the few that do are required to be labeled as such.

Where Does Asbestos Hide and When Might It Be Exposed?

In the past, asbestos fibers were added to a variety of products for greater strength, heat insulation and fire resistance. So until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes, schools, commercial buildings and industrial facilities contained these inhalable fibers.

Here is a quick chart showing products that may have contained asbestos in the past and conditions which may release these fibers:

Again, this can all seem daunting so it is good to recognize that most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as everyone is in our daily lives, do not develop the health problems associated with its use. When disturbed, such asbestos material becomes more dangerous and may release fibers, which can be inhaled and remain in the lungs a long time, thus increasing the risk of disease.

What further can be done?

Despite these facts and the increased awareness, there are still dangers and prevention begins with inspections, air monitoring and testing of potential asbestos containing materials (ACM). The results allow for building owners, facility managers, property managers, school administrators and others to not only understand where ACM may be present, but take a further step. They can safely manage these materials in place or create a proper abatement plan to reduce or eliminate it.

Recently, IEC has begun providing comprehensive daily asbestos project and air monitoring for a large-scale renovation/demolition worksite at a major six-building corporate office complex located in Central New Jersey.  Five of the six buildings, which vary in size and total approximately 681,000 square feet in area, were constructed in 1969-1970 and various asbestos containing materials (ACM) have been identified within each, including spray-on fireproofing on structural steel spandrel beams, decking and vertical columns. In the past, numerous asbestos surveys were conducted as part of due diligence assessments pursuant to the acquisition of the property.

IEC was engaged by the Buyer to collate all previous asbestos information and provide supplemental survey information, which identified several gaps in the previous survey reports.  As a result, IEC provided new design documents with clarifications to the scope of work. This included the re-classification of numerous materials previously unidentified as ACM as well as others that were incorrectly identified as ACM.  IEC is now on-site daily providing asbestos abatement project oversight and asbestos air monitoring for project quality assurance and final clearance purposes.

Engaging with experienced asbestos professionals such as those at IEC can effectively implement these proactive mitigation and remediation steps which can go a long way in protecting air quality, reducing the incidents of illness linked to asbestos as well as provide regulatory compliance and risk management to building owners and property managers.

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