Proper Disposal of Asbestos

Though the use of asbestos was banned and mining completely ceased in 2002, there are still thousands of asbestos-containing materials and products in the United States. Consider, for example, the date your home, school, or office was built. If it is any date prior to 1979, it is likely that much of the infrastructure contains asbestos. Common places include fire-proof insulation, vinyl tiles, roof shingles, and door gaskets. Asbestos threatens the lives of those who inhale its fibers. Inhalation occurs when the asbestos-containing material is damaged in any way, which is highly probable during remodeling, demolition, or repair. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn the public of the deadly health risks associated with friable asbestos. Rare and serious illnesses such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other cancers are known consequences of asbestos exposure; if you suspect exposure of any kind, contact an asbestos attorney immediately to discuss your legal rights.

The question remains: what do you do with asbestos-containing material if found? Government organizations like the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have complied toxicological profiles on their website accessible to the public to answer such issues. If you become aware of any asbestos-containing materials, please follow the instructions below and follow up with your own research on the ATSDR website.

Currently, friable asbestos-containing wastes may only be deposited in landfills that are approved and regulated by the federal government. Regulations include wetting or using dust suppression agents, covering with at least 15 cm (6 inches) of non-asbestos-containing material, and deterring public access with a fence or natural barrier. These regulations are intended to ensure that asbestos at these sites is not dispersed into the environment.

Nonfriable asbestos waste is considered to be a nonhazardous waste and can be disposed of in any landfill. There is no significant recycling of asbestos. However, Cassiar Mines and Metals, Inc., a Canadian company that owns an asbestos mine in British Columbia, is currently producing chrysotile from its stockpiles and mine tailings. It is also developing a magnesium plant using stockpiled chrysotile and serpentinite as a source material.

According to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), in 1996, an estimated 750 pounds of asbestos were released to publicly owned-treatment works by facilities producing, processing, or using asbestos, and an estimated 3.3 million pounds were transferred off-site. In 1999, 4.8 million pounds of friable asbestos was transferred off-site, presumably for disposal. Starting in 1998, seven new industrial sectors were required to report their releases to the TRI.

1. Remove all objects within the work area and then cover the work area with heavy plastic.

2. Turn off the furnace or air conditioning system during the removal and cover all registers and return air vents in the area with plastic.

3. Wear disposable coveralls to prevent contamination of clothing and always wear a respirator equipped with a high efficiency particulate air filter during removal and cleanup.

4. Asbestos is a problem when inhaled or ingested, thus the use of water is very important to suppress any dust which may arise during the removal. A fine spray from a hose, garden sprayer, or water bottle prior to and during the removal is very important to prevent any fiber release into the air.

5. Remove the asbestos with caution to prevent any crumbling, breaking, tearing or ripping which would release asbestos fibers into the air.

6. Place removed material into leak-tight containers or thick plastic bags and seal with duct tape.

7. Make sure all surface areas are free of any visible dust or contamination. Wet wipe all areas in the work area with soap and water.

8. Carefully roll up the plastic used to cover the work area and also dispose of in leak-tight containers along with coveralls and filter cartridges.

9. Immediately wash any clothing worn under the protective coveralls and shower thoroughly.

It is also recommended that the landfill be contacted prior to shipping any asbestos containing materials. Generally, 24 hours notice is considered acceptable.

Asbestos attorneys remind the public that they should always contact their health department to be certain that any local ordinances governing asbestos are being followed. If you suspect exposure of any kind, contact an asbestos lawyer immediately to review your legal options.