Asbestos is present in a wide variety of building materials. Any home or building owner may encounter an asbestos-containing material (ACM) during the course of renovation, repair or demolition. ACMs can include insulation, plaster, floor or ceiling tiles, plaster, ductwork, roofing shingles, adhesives, and a host of others (EPA, 2007).
If you determine you have an ACM in your home or building, you may choose to leave it alone. These materials are not dangerous if they are in good condition and undisturbed. They only become dangerous if the material is disturbed or damaged so that asbestos fibers are released in the air where they can be inhaled. Trying to remove the ACM may involve damaging it in some way and therefore making it dangerous. If the ACM can be left undisturbed, and if it is in good condition, it makes good sense to leave it in place.
If the asbestos-containing material needs to be removed, then an asbestos abatement contractor should be contacted for information about what types of treatments are available and appropriate for encapsulation or enclosure.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulate how asbestos abatement is to be handled. State and local laws may specify even stricter policies. The OSHA regulations include requirements for protective clothing and equipment, enclosure or isolation of dust, monitoring of exposure, proper waste containment, medical surveillance, and many others (Cooper, 2006).
The American Lung Association (ALA) states that the removal of asbestos should be the last option considered, because of the risk of damage and spread of asbestos fibers. However, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a asbestos abatement professional with skilled training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.” (American Lung Association, 1990).