Florida (FL) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection describes asbestos as a group of several kinds of mineral fibers that can only be identified with a special type of microscope and was once commonly used for its insulating and fire resistant properties (1).  While most products today do not contain asbestos, asbestos was used widely until the 1970s when it was discovered that prolonged or intense exposure to airborne asbestos fibers can cause serious diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (1).  Unfortunately, many homes that were built before the 1970s still contain materials that have asbestos as an additive.  Some common products that the State of Florida warns as possible asbestos-containing materials are steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts, flooring and adhesives for flooring tiles, cement sheet, millboard, paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood burning stoves, door gaskets, soundproofing or decorative material that is sprayed on surfaces, patching and joint compound, decorative paints, artificial ashes and embers for gas-fired fireplaces, fireproof gloves, ironing board covers, and some automobile parts, like brake pads and clutch facings (1).  While asbestos-containing material that is in good condition generally does not pose an immediate health risk, when these materials are damaged, such as in a renovation or demolition project, asbestos fibers can be released in the air, where they are a health threat (1).

Because of the implementation of the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was required to create regulations that are designed to shield the public from exposure to hazardous air pollutants (2). This resulted in the creation of the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (2).  Since high levels of asbestos exposure are known to cause a variety of diseases and it is so common, asbestos was one of the first pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act (2).  Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency has delegated "primary authority" for the implementation and enforcement of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants regarding asbestos to the State of Florida (2). To accommodate this responsibility, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has created an asbestos removal program that is designed to "minimize the release of asbestos fibers during the processing, handling and disposal of asbestos containing materials, specify work practices to be followed during demolitions, renovations, installations, and establish proper methods of reporting and record keeping" (2). All of these regulations are designed with the intention of keeping asbestos workers, the public, and the environment safe from asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Regulations

Asbestos Training

In Florida, individuals can become certified as either asbestos consultants or contractors (3).  To receive their licensure, all individuals must take and pass a test after completing a course that delivers the content of the test (3).  The asbestos consultant test consists of 100 questions that the candidate must answer in two and a half hours (3).  The asbestos contractor test has two parts: the technical knowledge portion, consisting of 100 multiple choice questions, and the business knowledge portion consists of fifty questions (3).  Candidates for the asbestos contractor licensure have a total of four hours to complete both parts (3).  The main topics on the asbestos consultant include preparing and evaluating adherence to technical specifications, preparing and evaluating adherence to non-technical specifications, administering contracts, identifying probable locations of asbestos, conducting on-site inspections, preparing, conducting, and evaluating abatement management plans, and conducting and evaluating sampling and monitoring procedures (3).  The asbestos contractor exam is more in depth and includes maintaining cash flow, estimating and bidding, negotiating and interpreting contracts and agreements, processing change orders, purchasing control, scheduling contracts, insurance and bonding, contracting laws and rules, managing personnel, payroll and sales tax laws, submittal notices, protecting personnel, preparing for abatement, abatement procedures, and post abatement procedures (3). Since all of this information is highly specialized, and much of it is designed to keep people safe from asbestos exposure, it is required that all consultants and contractors be licensed before practicing in this field.

Inspection

Since renovations and demolitions are common ways of disrupting asbestos-containing material, many of the regulations are in regards to these activities.  Before any renovation or demolition activities can begin, it is required that an inspector conducts a thorough inspection of the area and writes a report that identifies all asbestos-containing materials in that part of the facility.  Inspectors have the right to enter any facility or containment areas, and they may also open any containers that seem suspect.  Usually, inspectors will use the method of bulk sampling to complete this task, which involves removing a solid quantity of suspect material and having it tested for the presence of asbestos in a laboratory.  Laboratories will most commonly test these bulk samples using the method of Polarized Light Microscopy.  These tests are relatively inexpensive, ranging from 20 to 100 dollars but averaging around 30 dollars.  Inspectors may also be present to investigate sites that are being demolished or renovated.  In these cases, inspectors have the right to enter any renovation or demolition facility, and they may also open any bags that they feel might be suspect.  It is important to remember that inspectors do not have to personally witness the improper removal of asbestos-containing materials.  They are trained to collect evidence to prove improper removal, so it is important for anybody performing asbestos to follow rules and regulations regardless of whether or not an inspector is present.  FAQ http://www.dep.state.fl.us/air/pollutants/faq/faq_asb_regulation.pdf

Renovations and Demolitions

In Florida, all institutional, commercial, public, industrial, and residential structures including more than four dwelling units must adhere to asbestos regulations when undergoing renovations or demolitions (2).  Before any renovation or demolition project can begin in a regulated facility, notice must be sent to the Department of Environmental Protection District Office or a Local Pollution control agency at least ten working days prior to the project (2).  Even demolition projects on buildings that contain no asbestos must be reported (2).  Standard work practices will apply to all renovation and demolition projects on facilities with at least 260 linear feet of regulated asbestos-containing materials on pipes, or 160 square feet of regulated asbestos-containing materials on other facility components, or at least 35 cubic feet off facility components where the amount of RACM previously removed from pipes and other facility components could not be measured before stripping (2).

One of the standard work practices that are required in regulated facilities is that all asbestos containing material must be adequately wetted when it is removed (2).  This means that all regulated asbestos containing material must be thoroughly wetted with a water based solution before it can be handled in order to control the emission of airborne asbestos fibers (2). All materials must remain wetted until they are in leak proof containers that are properly labeled with warnings from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2).

From this point, it is necessary for the contractor or consultant to arrange for proper transportation and disposal of these hazardous wastes.  This process is also highly regulated.  Fortunately, there are many consultants and contractors in Florida who are educated in the intricacies of all of these rules and regulations, and they can safely perform all aspects of asbestos abatement from planning to disposal. 

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