A brief description of federal asbestos-removal programs, with information about the substance's risks.
Applying for federal assistance to remove asbestos from your home or business can be a complicated procedure. The passage of comprehensive federal legislation concerning asbestos abatement continues to be knotted by a stalemate over victims’ rights versus the protection of business interests. Fortunately, existing laws and regulations afford some protection to consumers and businesses and do provide financial assistance for its costly removal.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring group of silicate minerals that have long, tiny fibrous crystals. In the late 19th century, the use of asbestos in building materials gained popularity because of its durability and reliability. Asbestos materials were commonly used in flame retardant coatings, concrete, bricks, pipes and fireplace cements, gaskets and pipe insulation, drywall, flooring, roofing, lawn furniture and drywall joint compound.
The use of asbestos was discontinued and outlawed in the late 1970s when it was determined that inhalation of the asbestos crystals caused serious respiratory illnesses. The most common illnesses reported from inhalation exposure include lung cancer, mesothelioma (a type of malignant neoplasm) and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis).
The removal of asbestos, or what is commonly known as asbestos abatement, usually involves removing pipe-wrapping insulation asbestos from around heating pipes. Because of the health hazards associated with removing asbestos and the use of special equipment required to keep the area from becoming contaminated, the cost of removing it is usually very high.
Federal Assistance and Programs
Many governing bodies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and several public interest groups, oversee and regulate the implementation of asbestos legislation and program funds.
Asbestos abatement assistance is usually implemented at the state level. To determine whether you need asbestos abatement and to apply for government assistance, start by contacting your regional EPA office or your state’s department of environment.
Even in ancient times, asbestos was recognized for its powerful properties, both beneficial and harmful. The word asbestos is Greek, derived from sbestos (quench, or extinguish) which translates literally as inextinguishable. In recent history, asbestos materials were used in products as early as the 1860’s. The first commercial asbestos mine was founded in 1879 in the Appalachian Foothills of Quebec. In the 1950s, asbestos gained popularity and became an affordable and reliable material option for use in residential, public, and businesses structures.
The three most common types of asbestos are Chrysotile, Amosite, and Crocidolite. Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, is a magnesium silicate that has pale, stringy fibers. It is the primary type found in asbestos products. Amosite is brown or gray and is characterized by straight fibers. Amosite contains iron and magnesium. Crocidolite is noted for its blue, straight fibers and is a sodium iron magnesium silicate.
Researchers have detected a correlation between lung-related diseases and asbestos inhalation. Diseases resulting from asbestos inhalation or ingestion still claim the lives of 10,000 people each year. Scarring of the lung tissue takes 15 to 20 years to appear. This process, known as asbestosis, is rarely fatal in itself, but it can lead to fatal cases of pneumonia, flu or lung cancer.
The Environmental Protection Agency stresses that home and business owners should never, under any circumstances, remove asbestos themselves. Asbestos is highly dangerous when it is airborne. It is far more dangerous to remove asbestos improperly than to leave it alone. This is a job solely for professionals who are trained in the use of proper protection and ventilation techniques.