Illinois (IL) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency recognizes asbestos as "a naturally occurring mineral found in certain rocks that separates into strong thin fibers that are invisible to the naked eye" (2).  Because asbestos is strong, fire-resistant, corrosion resistant, and has good insulating properties, asbestos was often used in the production of building materials until the mid 1970s and was used less frequently until the late 1980s (2).  Asbestos was often added to concrete, asphalt, and vinyl materials in roof shingles, pipes, siding, wallboard, floor tiles, joint compounds, and adhesives for added strength (2).  To make materials fireproof, asbestos was applied to steel beams and columns in buildings that are more than one story (2). It was also used for its insulating properties and as a means of controlling condensation, in acoustical plasters, and in sprayed on ceilings and walls to produce a textured appearance (2).  If these materials contain more than one percent asbestos, then they are considered asbestos-containing materials (2).

Unfortunately, since this time Illinois has also recognized asbestos as a threat to human health.  Although asbestos-containing material that is in good condition is not an immediate threat, the Maryland Environmental Protection Agency warns that friable asbestos-containing material (those materials that can be reduced to a powder using hand pressure when dry) can be a threat (2).  When asbestos fibers from disturbed asbestos-containing materials become airborne, such as during renovations or demolitions, they can be inhaled, where the fibers become lodged in the lung tissues (2).  Once in the lung tissues, asbestos has been known to cause cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and pleural plaques, all of which are very serious conditions (2).  Since asbestos poses such a health risk, it is considered a hazardous air pollutant and is regulated by the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (2).  Because of this, all asbestos related work on regulated facilities, such as public, commercial, industrial, or institutional buildings must be completed by professionals (2).  Although private homeowners or owners of apartment buildings with fewer than four housing units are exempt from these regulations, the threat that asbestos poses is not reduced, and Illinois recommends hiring professionals (2).

Asbestos Professionals

Since demolitions and renovations can cause significant exposure to asbestos, it is necessary that all regulated buildings be inspected before any activities occur that could damage or disturb any asbestos containing materials (1).  All workers hired to work on any asbestos-related projects in regulated buildings must be properly licensed (1).  Fortunately, more than 10,000 workers are licensed each year, so workers are in no short supply (1). 

Illinois separates asbestos professionals into eight categories, including workers, contractors, supervisors, project managers, air sampling professionals, project designers, inspectors, and management planners (1).  Each of these types of workers have specific duties and responsibilities, so their training courses vary in content and intensity (1).  Workers are responsible for the handling of asbestos in regulated facilities; contractors conduct abatement and must be insured; supervisors design for contractors and ensure that all regulations are met, project managers oversee supervisors to ensure that all contract specifications are carried out; air sampling professionals take samples to accurately determine the airborne concentration of asbestos fibers; project designers develop project designs for school buildings and draw up specifications and contracts, inspectors locate and identify asbestos-containing materials, and management planners develop management plans bases on reports from inspectors (1).  To become certified, each of these professionals must complete rigorous courses and they must attend annual refresher courses (1).  This training keeps all individuals who are involved in asbestos-related activities up-to-date on all of the latest rules, regulations, and safety technology.  

Abatement Procedures

If the inspector discovers that more than 160 square feet, 260 linear feet, or one cubic meter of asbestos containing material is to be removed, then notification of the removal must be submitted to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency at least ten working days before the beginning of renovation or demolition activities (2).  When the demolition or renovation begins, licensed professionals will handle all planning and removing of asbestos and they must adhere to strict regulations (2).  These regulations are set in place to minimize the amount of asbestos fibers that become airborne, where they can pose a health risk.  These professionals are aware of all of these regulations, and supervisors ensure that they are all carried out strictly.  At all times, regulations set forth by the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration must be followed (2).

During all abatement in regulated facilities, a worker that is trained by the National Standards for Emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants must be present at all times (2).  In addition, before any activity that could potentially disturb any asbestos fibers, the area from which asbestos is to be removed must be completely separated from other areas and the outside, and all forced-air heating and ventilation systems must be turned off (2).  This prevents asbestos dust from entering other areas of the facility, where it is not monitored.  During all aspects of abatement, it is crucial that all workers wear tight-fitting respirators that are equipped with filtering cartridges (2).  Prior to any handling, all asbestos-containing material must be thoroughly wetted and remain wet during the entire process, as this reduces the amount of dust that enters the air (2).  Whenever possible, asbestos-containing material must be removed in large pieces or intact, as cutting or grinding can generate excess dust (2).  When it is time for disposal of asbestos waste, it must be contained in approved, leak-proof, air-tight containers that have warning labels affixed and safely transported to approved landfills (2). From there, clean-up measures must taken, in which all surfaces are cleaned with wet mops, rags, or sponges (2).  Finally, all workers must decontaminate themselves each time they leave the facility to avoid exposure to fibers left on their clothing, skin, or hair (2).  These regulations are strict, but they are all necessary to ensure the safety of workers, the public, and the environment.

Because asbestos abatement is often quite expensive, there are also the options of encapsulation and encasement, which involve not removing, but enclosing the hazardous material. However, these are not always options in the case of demolition or renovation since any encapsulant or encasement may be damaged, exposing asbestos fibers to the air. If you believe that your home or business may be contaminated by asbestos, protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of asbestos.  You can contact one of a number of trained professionals right here in Illinois who will explain your options and provide you with advice.

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