Iowa (IA) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recognizes that damaged asbestos containing materials can cause tiny asbestos fibers to be released into the air where they may remain for long periods of time (2).  Once airborne, individuals could inhale the fibers and they can become permanently lodged into the tissues of their lungs (2).  The inhalation of large amounts of asbestos fibers can cause diseases after a long latency period of 20 or more years (2).  Once symptoms appear though, they can often develop into mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other cancers (2).  Mesothelioma refers to the cancer of the membranes that line the chest and abdomen and is always fatal (2).  Asbestosis refers to a chronic lung disease that scars the lung tissue, causing breathing difficult, shortness of breath, and reduced lung capacity, which can sometimes lead to death (2).  In any case, these damaged asbestos containing materials are extremely hazardous.  Even intact asbestos containing products pose a threat when demolition or renovation occurs, as it can potentially cause damage to the fibers and send them into the air (2).

Because of this danger, institutional, commercial, public, and industrial buildings are subject to inspection prior to demolition or renovation to ensure that all safety precautions are taken to prevent unnecessary exposure (2).  Before the renovation or demolition begins, abatement must be conducted if any asbestos containing materials are detected (2). One exemption from this rule is residential buildings with four or fewer dwelling units that are to be demolished or renovated for purposes that are not commercial, public, industrial, or institutional (2).  Families who are planning demolition or renovations on their own homes are not required to get the building inspected, but it is often a good idea regardless to keep family members as safe as possible (2).  All inspections and abatements, whether they are mandated by federal and state law or are voluntarily conducted by homeowners, should be performed by licensed professionals (2).

Trained Professionals

In order to become a hired asbestos worker of any sort, it is necessary to become certified.  Because there are different ways that workers can be involved with the handling, the training requirements and intensities vary according to the type of certification a worker wishes to apply for.  The Iowa Department of Labor recognizes five different asbestos licensing types, including asbestos workers, supervisors or contractors, inspectors, management planners, and asbestos project designers (1).  As the positions’ degree of responsibility and hazard of causing asbestos exposure increase, the training becomes longer (1).  An inspector has a minimal chance of disrupting large quantities of asbestos fibers, so their initial training spans three days; asbestos project designers undergo a different three day training course; asbestos workers, who are in direct contact with asbestos containing materials must complete four days of initial training, management planners are required to take the three day course for inspectors and a two day management planner training course, and supervisors or contractors take a different five day course (1). In all areas, workers’ permits are only valid for one year, as they must attend annual refresher courses to receive the most current safety information (1).  In order to receive licenses as asbestos workers or supervisors/contractors, it is also necessary that applicants are examined by a physician and given clearance to perform work while using a respirator (3).  Iowa also requires that once a year, each permit holder is observed during an asbestos encapsulation of abatement to ensure that their procedures meet all regulations (3).  

Inspection

Before a renovation or a demolition of a facility, it is required that a thorough asbestos inspection is completed by a professional.  Iowa defines a throughout inspection as one in which "all suspect asbestos-containing materials require sampling and laboratory analysis or are assumed to contain asbestos and handled in accordance with regulation (2).  The purpose of these inspections is to determine how much, if any, asbestos is present at the demolition or renovation site.  Some of the most common asbestos containing materials that are tested are "floor tile, linoleum, pipe and boiler insulation, heat duct wrap and joint compound, cementitious, transite or slate siding and roofing, asphalt-based roofing and asphalt shingles, ceiling tiles, joint compound, sprayed-on acoustical, decorative texturing, and a variety of other materials" (2).   If levels of asbestos containing materials are too high, it may be necessary to abate the asbestos prior to the beginning of renovation or demolition(2). 

Asbestos Abatement

All demolition of facilities require notification to the Iowa Division of Natural Resources even if there is no asbestos present (2).  However, there are specific notification procedures that are applied if the combined regulated asbestos containing materials exceed "160 square feet of surfacing, 260 linear feet of pipes, or 35 cubic feet of debris" (2).  For renovations, notification must be submitted only if the facility exceeds these same standards (2). 

Before demolition or renovations of a facility containing asbestos can begin, all of the asbestos containing material must be safely removed (2).  During all abatement, on site supervisors who are adequately trained and licensed to comply with all laws and regulations must be present (2).  There are strict laws and regulations that are designed to keep the level of airborne asbestos fibers to a minimum.  For example, any asbestos containing material that is to be handled must be wetted to minimize dust, and placed in approved, airtight, leak proof containers before it is disposed of (2).  Disposal of this waste must also take place under strict regulations to avoid environmental contamination (2).  After the abatement is completed, sampling must be done to ensure that the air is clean before the contaminated area can be reopened (2).  Once it has been reopened, Iowa recommends that owners personally inspect that area with a flashlight to verify that there is no dust or debris present (2).

Because airborne asbestos fibers are so dangerous, they should always be handled by licensed professionals who are trained in the best ways to keep themselves, the public, and the environment safe.  While it is not illegal for private homeowners to complete renovations without proper inspection and abatement, it does not decrease the danger that asbestos fibers can pose to those who live there.  It is always recommendable to have private homes inspected before demolition, and it is required under penalty of law that all commercial, public, institutional, and industrial buildings are inspected and abated prior to demolition or renovation.  Fortunately, there are many contractors and inspects located right in Iowa who can help home and business owners with whatever asbestos needs they may have. 

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