Many buildings still contain asbestos, which was used as a very effective flame retardant, thermal system insulation and in a variety of other materials. Asbestos was used in mechanical insulation for insulating pipes, boilers, steam systems, hot water systems and plumbing systems located in all aspects of a building and facilities.
The Mechanical Insulation Labor Management Cooperative Trust (LMCT) works to remove the threat of asbestos in mechanical insulation.
Removal is not the only option one may have, although it is the best permanent solution. The term abatement is also used when treating the asbestos by enclosing or encapsulating it in order to be removed at a later time. Encapsulation allows individuals to safely work near asbestos until the eventual removal takes place.
Asbestos In Building Materials
The only way to truly know if asbestos is in building material is to remove a sample of the material and have it tested by a competent laboratory. Depending on how and where asbestos was applied, it may not pose any risk to most building users.
If the asbestos fibers cannot become dislodged from the material, they cannot be inhaled and the asbestos poses no risk. Asbestos poses hazards when its fibers can be inhaled. For instance, maintenance personnel, who have to drill holes in walls for installation of cables or pipes may unknowingly put themselves and others at risk. Even if the workers are protected, such maintenance work may release fibers into the air, which then may be inhaled by others in the building. Any work, which may disturb asbestos, must follow stringent safety procedures.
When asbestos fibers can easily turn into airborne dust, the material is considered friable. For example, mechanical insulation is extremely friable, whereas asbestos floor tile is considered non-friable. Friable materials have a lifespan between 20 and 40 plus years, whereas non-friable materials, such as asbestos roofing tiles, have a lifespan of 50 to 100 years and beyond.
Asbestos was used as a fire resistant material in many buildings to insulate pipes, boilers, steam systems, hot water systems and plumbing systems.
Thanks to research and other action, production of this harmful material was banned in the U.S. in 1978 and in Canada in 2011. In 2018, Canada enacted a complete ban. Despite these bans, installers were still permitted to use the remaining stock of asbestos material in buildings and construction projects throughout the two countries. Buildings constructed as late as 1986 may contain asbestos in many areas within the structure.
Prior to any asbestos removal procedures taking place, it is extremely important to remember the client has a duty of care and must verify the asbestos abatement contractor can properly handle and dispose of the asbestos.
A building owner can reach out to one of the Mechanical Insulators LMCT signatory contractors to request a sample is taken and tested to determine if asbestos was used in their insulation system. Testing is recommended if maintenance is to be performed on the building, potentially exposing building workers, employees and visitors to asbestos and the easily spreadable particle traces.
Sometimes the best and most immediate course of action to limit the threat of asbestos is to enclose or encapsulate the material. Doing so will prevent people from breathing in the asbestos particles. Eventually, the asbestos will have to be removed, but for a time, it is safe to carry out operations once the asbestos is contained.
Contact one of our expert signatory contractors to work on your asbestos abatement project.