EPA Requirements & Asbestos in Commercial Buildings & Homes
From the late 1800s until the 1980s, asbestos was a prominent material used in most residential and commercial buildings. The naturally occurring substance is heat resistant, so it was often used for fireproofing and insulation. However, in the late 1980s, it became apparent that this proven carcinogen can be hazardous to people.
EPA Rules Regulating Asbestos
Beginning in 1989, the EPA enacted a ban on asbestos products, ruling that they could no longer be used in residential or commercial buildings. However, this ruling was overturned and only a partial ban was enacted.
To date, some products containing asbestos are still being manufactured and used in buildings. It remains important to have your home or commercial building tested, especially if you plan on doing any demolition.
Along with the ban on certain asbestos products, the EPA requires companies that manufacture products with asbestos to notify the agency. All reported materials are thoroughly inspected by the EPA to determine if they are safe for public use.
Asbestos products are also mentioned in the Clean Air and Water Act. The act primarily involves the handling of asbestos products during activities like renovation and demolition of older structures. The law is intended to protect workers from harmful exposure that could lead to health problems down the road.
What Is Your Risk?
If you live and/or work in an older building, especially if it was built before 1980, it is highly likely that there is asbestos somewhere in the building.
Common asbestos locations include:
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- Insulation inside walls and surrounding ducts
- Other structures
Simply having materials made of asbestos in the home isn’t likely to lead to a high risk of lung damage to you and your family. Usually, asbestos is self-contained; if the asbestos-containing materials are structurally sound and in good condition, your risk of exposure is low.
Your risk of exposure is higher when products containing the material get damaged or disturbed. For example, if something happens to crack your floor tile, the tile may release small particles into the air. As structures age, they are more likely to deteriorate in this way.
Before asbestos removal, check around your home for potential damage to tiles, shingles, siding, insulation, and other common asbestos-containing materials. Look for cracks, holes, water damage, or other visible signs of structural degradation. If building materials appear to be worn or damaged, it’s likely time to call in professionals to inspect your home.
You can take advantage of the Asbestos Project Management at-home testing kit to conduct an asbestos inspection, determine whether your home has asbestos, and measure the levels at which asbestos is present in the building.
How to Properly Prepare for Removal
If you find there is asbestos in your building, one of the best ways to tackle the problem is to have it removed.
Before removing asbestos and/or investing in the renovation, be sure to have your home or commercial building inspected by a professional. According to the Clean Air and Water Act:
“The regulations require a thorough inspection where the demolition or renovation operation will occur. When buildings are under renovation, they are not being demolished, but asbestos-containing building material is being removed or disturbed.”
Although it can be tempting to try and save money, it is highly recommended that you DO NOT do the demolition and asbestos removal by yourself.
Asbestos-containing materials pose a high exposure risk to people working with or removing them. These materials must be handled and disposed of properly; simply dumping these materials in the trash could end up harming you and lead to water and air contamination.
Professionals have the gear and training to handle the task and make the process safer for you, your family, and your neighborhood.
EPA Rules for Commercial Buildings
Many of the same rules and regulations pertaining to asbestos inspection and asbestos removal in homes also apply to commercial buildings. However, the EPA also has specific guidelines for operating and maintaining commercial buildings to limit the risk of asbestos exposure.
Many regulations involve cleaning and handling parts of the building in which asbestos may be present. When setting up an operations and maintenance program for your commercial building, the EPA recommends cleaning and handling practices that help leave materials that contain asbestos intact — thereby reducing the likelihood of exposure. Since asbestos-containing materials release harmful particles into the air when they are damaged, the EPA recommends keeping all materials in good condition.
The agency breaks materials into categories:
- Thermal insulation
- Surfacing material
The EPA offers separate guidelines for cleaning and handling materials in each of these categories but specifies that all operations and maintenance workers should be properly trained. If you own or manage a commercial building, particularly one built before 1980, it is essential to have a detailed training program for all workers who may be handling materials with asbestos.
Commercial buildings include:
- Office buildings
- Multi-unit apartment buildings
- Shopping centers
- Other buildings
The EPA offers separate guidelines for schools to protect children, but the guidelines also apply to most other commercial buildings.
Before letting maintenance workers perform repairs or work on projects in which they may be drilling or disturbing parts of the building, they need to be trained to know which components may contain asbestos so they can leave them alone. The EPA also requires that workers who may be at risk of asbestos exposure be properly protected while handling asbestos-containing materials.
Many homes and commercial buildings in cities or areas with older construction are likely to contain materials with asbestos. In order to keep you and your family safe in your home and maintenance workers, customers, and occupants safe in commercial buildings, the EPA recommends keeping asbestos materials in good condition.
If asbestos-containing materials get damaged or if you decide it’s time to renovate the building, calling in Asbestos Project Management to properly inspect and remove asbestos-containing materials will keep everyone safe.Back To Blog