Massachusetts (MA) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection classifies asbestos as a "naturally occurring, mostly fibrous mineral that may consist of any one of a number of silicates" that is generally used because of its resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals (3).  Because of the need to properly insulate and fire proof buildings, asbestos can be commonly found in building materials.  Asbestos containing materials that are maintained in good condition are not immediately hazardous to one’s health, and owners of buildings are required by law to ensure that all asbestos containing materials are kept intact (3).  However, when asbestos containing building materials begin to deteriorate or are disturbed in renovation or demolition, the asbestos fibers can become airborne where they can be inhaled (3).  Once inhaled the fibers can remain in the body for decades and intense or prolonged exposure to these fibers can cause such serious diseases as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, which are all serious diseases that can be fatal (3).  For this reason, all materials containing over 1% of asbestos is regulated (3).  Because of the risk of disease, it is not only recommended but required that any asbestos containing material that could be disturbed in a demolition or renovation be removed before the project begins (3).  Such abatement must be performed by a certified asbestos professional following strict federal and state laws to ensure that all parties are subjected to minimal exposure to asbestos fibers.

Hiring a Professional
                                                                                                                  
To become certified, all individuals who wish to earn their licenses to handle asbestos must complete the required training from an approved facility (1).  The content and intensity of the courses vary depending on whether or not the individual wishes to become an asbestos worker, a contractor or supervisor, an inspector, a management planner, a project designer, or a project manager (1).  The training for the general worker includes topics such as the physical characteristics of asbestos, personal protective equipment, work practices, personal hygiene, additional safety hazards, medical monitoring, air monitoring, federal, state, and local laws, and respiratory protection programs (1).  This training must last four days and include lectures, demonstrations, hands-on activities, respiratory fit testing, course review, and a written exam.  They must achieve at least a 70% score on the test to pass (1).  Once they pass, they must submit the appropriate applications for certification and licensing.  All workers must complete an annual refresher course and apply for a renewal of certification to keep their licenses from expiring.

The Duties of an Asbestos Worker

Asbestos workers must perform a wide variety of duties to safely and fully decontaminate a building from dangerous asbestos.  Some of the duties that the Massachusetts Department of Labor and Workforce Development are: removing asbestos from ceilings, walls, beams, boilers, and other structures, while adhering to the hazardous waste handling guidelines; assembling scaffolding and sealing off work areas, with plastic sheeting and duct tape; positioning mobile decontamination units; building connecting walkways between mobile units and work areas; establishing portable air systems inside work areas; spraying chemical solutions onto asbestos containing materials; cutting and scraping asbestos from surfaces; shoveling asbestos into plastic disposal bags and seals bags; cleaning work areas of loose asbestos using vacuums, brooms, and dust pan; placing asbestos in disposal bags and sealing bags; dismantling scaffolding and temporary walkways; placing plastic sheeting and disposal bags into transport bags; and loading bags onto a truck for transportation for disposal (2).

Worker Safety Requirements

In the removal of asbestos, safety is the most important thing to consider.  Because intense exposure can have such ill effects on the human body, there are a number of personal protective requirements that must be met even in small-scale asbestos removal.  First, it is important that all individuals who are not directly involved in the abatement to be removed from the area and proper barriers to be installed until the project is completed (1).  To avoid undue exposure to other areas, it is necessary to construct dust tight barriers, glove bags, or pre-constructed enclosures are also acceptable.  It is also required that the material remains saturated with amended water from before the removal to the time of disposal (1).  Once the asbestos has been removed and contained, the area must be cleaned with HEPA vacuums and tested for asbestos concentrations before enclosures are removed (1).  All of these precautions are taken to ensure that as little dust as possible is generated and spread to avoid its inhalation.  Other precautions include posted warning signs, decontamination units with showers, sign in/out logs, the shutting off of ventilation systems, and a variety of personal protective gear (1).

Testing

There are a variety of private testing laboratories in Massachusetts that are qualified to test for asbestos and are certified by the Massachusetts Department of Occupational Safety (3). Certified consultants and inspectors are the only individuals who are permitted to collect samples for testing, as they have been properly trained in taking accurate samples while causing minimum damage to the material, providing for minimum exposure to asbestos fibers.  In the case of a demolition, it is required that all dangerous material is removed before the demolition begins (3).  

On the other hand, if demolition or renovation is not the goal, then dangerous asbestos containing products could be eliminated through other methods, including encasement and encapsulation, which involve not removing the asbestos, but sealing it off or building a structure around it to prevent particles from becoming airborne.  Some homeowners may find this more cost efficient than abatement.  If you suspect that you may have hazardous asbestos containing material it is recommended to monitor and tests these materials.  A certified Massachusetts asbestos handler can test your home or business and discuss your options with you. 

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