According to the Register-Guard, home contractors have put workers and homeowners at risk in the Portland area by demolishing homes that contain asbestos. Industry standards require construction companies to remove asbestos prior to demolition, but because it increases time and labor costs, some contractors have ignored prudent action and gone forward with demos without addressing asbestos concerns.
If you’re working as a contractor (or hoping to get licensed in the near future), gaining sufficient knowledge about asbestos risks is imperative. Following are five facts you should know about asbestos and its impact on human beings and the environment.
1. Asbestos Causes Cancer
Asbestos, a known carcinogen, causes cancer in nearly 5,000 Americans every year. Lung cancer is the most common result, but other cancers – such as esophageal and laryngeal – can also stem from asbestos exposure. Nearly all cases of mesothelioma can be traced to asbestos.
Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally in nature, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. When asbestos fibers are agitated or disturbed, they enter the air and find their way into people’s lungs. This is why asbestos exposure is so dangerous during demolition.
2. Asbestos Was Used Most Frequently Between the 1930s and 1970s
Although asbestos have been used for myriad purposes since the 19th century, the period of greatest use occurred from the 1930s through the 1970s, becoming one of the most popular construction materials during World War II. In the 1970s, various environmental protection agencies began exploring the potentially negative consequences of asbestos exposure.
From that point on, asbestos declined in popularity across many industries, including construction. Cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers surfaced, increasing the pressure on health and safety professionals to educate the public and prevent exposure.
3. Asbestos Is Still in Use
Despite all of these issues, many industries still use asbestos. Some roofing materials, automobile parts, industrial components, metal sheeting, and adhesives still contain asbestos, especially if those products were imported from outside the United States.
4. Asbestos Is Found in More Than Insulation
Asbestos has been commonly associated with insulation, but it was used in many construction products, from vinyl tile to home siding. Roofing shingles, acoustical plaster, steel beams and columns, joint compounds, and other products might also contain asbestos. Contractors should verify that no materials used in a home contain asbestos before attempting to tear it down or remodel it.
5. Laws Concerning Asbestos Vary From State to State
Some states require construction industry professionals to have a home or commercial building inspected for asbestos prior to commencing work. Others demand that contractors give the local government notice before starting demolition on a home containing asbestos. Legislators are currently looking for ways to tighten regulations around asbestos removal to protect construction workers and homeowners.
In the construction industry, knowledge really is power. If you’re ready to continue your education on asbestos and other facets of the construction industry, browse courses by state At PDH Contractor Academy.