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Everything You Need to Know About Asbestos

One of the biggest considerations when it comes to demolitions and construction is the materials used and the necessary precautions and regulations when it comes to handling them. Asbestos is always going to be one of those worrying materials when it comes to demolition, requiring special handling, demolition techniques and disposal. From health risks to recycling, asbestos is a complex subject, so we put together a brief overview.

Asbestos handling is crucial in demolition, with it being a common building material even just thirty years ago. What is asbestos, why was it used and how do we get rid of it? Here is everything you need to know about asbestos.


What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous, light material mined from rock. Originally, we used to mine and produce asbestos around the US, especially in the Western US, and North and South Carolina, but nowadays we import what little asbestos we still use in manufacturing. It’s extremely lightweight, and most importantly, fire-resistant. It won’t catch light, and is perfect for fireproofing, for which it has been used for thousands of years.


Why is Asbestos Used?

As a cheap, durable, lightweight, and fire-resistant material, asbestos has seen use in hundreds of industries, everything from brake pads to construction, but it’s the latter that predominantly concerns us. This combination of characteristics made asbestos perfect for many roles within construction, strong, cheap, and durable, asbestos was used across millions of domestic and commercial building projects around the world from the late 1800s through to the ‘90s, and it’s only recently become apparent just how dangerous the material is.


Asbestos has long been a health risk to construction and demolition workers, with the US passing laws and legislation limiting exposure in the 1970s. Nowadays, it’s been linked to many diseases, including cancers and lung disease. As such, it requires proper handling to dispose of. In many senses, asbestos is a wonder material, however, the health risks attached make it extremely problematic to deal with and expensive to remove from structures, which is why it’s use has been outlawed in new construction projects.


How to Dispose of Asbestos

Asbestos should only be dealt with by trained and certified individuals. Doing a proper survey on asbestos within a structure is key when it comes to demolitions. It’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with as a demolition contractor, letting you put the right safety precautions and planning in place. This allows you to make sure your workers are completely safe working within a structure.


Dealing with the waste material itself is another challenge, requiring specialist landfill sites. Following regulations is key, you can’t just dump asbestos anywhere. Although there are developing technologies allowing asbestos to be recycled, the technology is still in its infancy. One technique involves using an acid bath to turn the asbestos into a silica which can be turned into glass. However, these techniques aren’t widespread yet, meaning highly regulated and specialist landfill is still the most common option for disposing of asbestos.


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