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  • Asbestos

    For those of you, many of you I'm sure have been or go to houses that have asbestos in them. Some may be reno's, or service calls. I'm curious how you approach the topic of asbestos in someone's home. How do you conduct yourself around it? Do you have someone who tests for it for you? Do you have an exposure plan? Do you know how to recognize it? Or to hell with it? What do you tell the homeowner?

    And a little scenario for you:

    Lets pretend you have 2 renovation contractors coming over to your house. Lets say for example you want to do a complete gut of a bathroom. You have an older type heritage house that may or may not have asbestos but say you don't know much about it.

    So Contractor 1 comes over to your house, looks professional, not flashy, but a clean looking tradesman type. He impresses you with his attitude, courtesy, and the questions he asks. He has good references potentially from friends, all that. And he gives you a quote.

    Contractor 2 shows up and lets say he's equally or similarly as impressive as the first contractor, with equal references, and say he gives you a similarly priced quote, but after doing some more investigating, he has an asterik attached. He asks you how old your home is? And you said xxx years. So he asks if you know if has asbestos in it? And you say "I'm not sure." So he tells the homeowner that before he can properly give you a quote, he is going to have a guy he uses to come and do some asbestos tests on insulation, those types of things. He mentions that this is standard procedure for his company and that he not only wants to protect his guys, obey state or provincial or national law, but that if he starts opening up walls which may have asbestos that the fibers could contaminate your home. You then seem startled - you ask him what are the consequences if there is asbestos - he says they would have to have (what is normally an expensive) remediation type contractor come and clean it up professionally, which could cost so much.

    So to sum it up, you have 2 contractors - equally impressive in how they approach the actual renovation, but one has an edge in recognizing potential asbestos in the home and the need to test for it and potentially remediate it. What's your take on which contractor should you use, and what is the reality of the situation?

    The last question I have for you is: Do you know someone who has died from asbestos?

  • #2
    Re: Asbestos

    I worked around a lot of asbestos during my years as a Telephone Lineman and Garage Mechanic. Way back when we used to blow out the brake dust with an air line before changing shoes or pads. I worked in plenty of hung ceilings, crawl spaces and even a Con Edison steam tunnel with huge steam pipes covered with asbestos. My personal belief is that the hazards of asbestos exposure are greatly exagerated. I'm a safety conscious person but unless the asbestos is flaking in tiny particles and airborne (fryable) there is no health danger! When we did the Con Edison job a hazmat team was there are our request and they routinely tested the air with special meters. Even thought there were breaks in the insultaion, no asbsestos was detectable. Now I'm sure their meters would have registered if they were around the garage when I was blowing brake dust. Personally I don't know anyone who died or was diagnosed with asbestos related sickness.


    • #3
      Re: Asbestos

      I had an uncle who passed away many years ago, from asbestosis. He worked in the ship yards most of his life and had an extreme amount of exposure though.

      But to answer your question: I'd be a bit concerned about Contractor #2. I've had some experience with asbestos exposure, as I'm sure almost anyone has who has worked in the trades, owned an older home, or even worked in an older factory or office building.

      Actually, asbestos was used right up through the 70's in many buildings. For example the Marine Midland Plaza building in Binghamton, NY was finished around 1973... it was later discovered to be full of asbestos and was closed. Not sure of the current status, but I think it was closed for over twenty years.

      Likewise our local high schools as asbestos packed around boilers, piping, etc. Same with the office building and much of the factory where I worked. All of these have since gone through a rather expensive and prolonged work project for its removal.

      My home here in Painted Post had asbestos tape wrapped around all the furnace joints, including the cold air returns (stupid), and the furnace plenum. The previous owner had coated most of it with paint and I later taped off any areas that looked deteriorated.

      When the heat exchanger cracked a couple of years ago, I thought we were going to be in for a major expense, with EPA rulings, inspections etc. The local gas company used to have their own sales and service company and though it is now independant, they still work closely together. So, when we called the gas company and thier technician verified the crack in the exchange, the shut off the gas immediately (it was Feb, 2006) and called the service and repair folks.

      They came over immediately, spec'd out a new system and had guys on the job that afternoon. They simply wrapped everything in plastic wrap, dismantled, wrapped and taped the sections (furnace, plenum, ductwork, etc.) and removed it from the premises. Some vacuuming followed the new installation and that was the end of the story.

      In my opinion, there should be precautionary steps to prevent making any dust and certainly from spreading it around. But like too many things today, we make a case for new enterprise to make a lot of money!



      • #4
        Re: Asbestos

        I think OSHA sets a standard that you are allowed to be exposed to 500,000 fibers before you are at risk. If you are concerned you may want to check that statement as it's been a while since I did abatement and could bee giving you bad information.
        I also remember hearing of a type of asbestos that has a sky blue color, I've never seen it, but have been told to take ALL precautions as 1 fiber is enough to do you in.

        INTERESTING FACT: In ancient Rome a slave over 5' 8" tall was considered to be of greater value and more prized then his shorter counterparts so he was not allowed in the asbestos mines due to such a shortened life span.
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        • #5
          Re: Asbestos

          I had to weld in a steam pipe for a guy in an old house, the old lines were wrapped in asbestos. The GC let me know, "those pipes have asbestos on them you know" the homeowner almost had a fit when I said thats nice and kept working. I might encounter asbestos 1-2 times a year, I am not that worried about it, don't disturb it and you should be fine.


          • #6
            Re: Asbestos

            we don't have any loose type asbestos in any of the buildings up here. thankfully our whole mechanical infastructure is relatively new. 40-45 years max.

            i do see the occasional asbestos board. usually under oil fired hot water tanks.


            • #7
              Re: Asbestos

              "I think OSHA sets a standard that you are allowed to be exposed to 500,000 fibers before you are at risk. If you are concerned you may want to check that statement as it's been a while since I did abatement and could bee giving you bad information.
              I also remember hearing of a type of asbestos that has a sky blue color, I've never seen it, but have been told to take ALL precautions as 1 fiber is enough to do you in."

              I have never heard or read anything along these lines (exposure allowance of 500K fibers). How can you count how many fibers you have been "exposed to". If you mean to say ingested 500,000 fibers well that too is near impossible to document. In all the safety training I have taken I never heard anything close to this.

              One could say that based on a given level of fibers in the air (measured in parts(fibers) per cubic centimeter) that one was exposed to (over time) x number of fibers but that does not mean you had contact or ingested all of those fibers. A very high level would be in the neighborhood of 100 fibers per cm3, 500,000 fibers/cc would be extremely hazardous exposure to either white or the Australian Blue asbestos.

              I have never had any exposure to or dealings with the sinister sky blue asbestos (Australian Blue) either, which is reported to be about 100 times more threatening because of the smaller size of the fibers.

              I have as others did eat my share of dust doing brake jobs on cars and trucks years ago, followed by more exposure early in my apprenticeship and both growing up in and later owning my own home both with asbestos insulation in them.

              The smaller the fiber particles the longer they take to settle out once airborne. For example a 3 micrometer fibers take about 13 minutes to settle out, 0.5 micrometer fibers about 8 hours .

              OSHA Asbestos Standard

              Permissible exposure limit (PELS) --
              Time-weighted average limit (TWA). The employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air as an eight (8)-hour time-weighted average (TWA) as determined by the method prescribed in Appendix A to this section, or by an equivalent method.
              Excursion limit. The employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 1.0 fiber per cubic centimeter of air (1 f/cc) as averaged over a sampling period of thirty (30) minutes as determined by the method prescribed in Appendix A to this section, or by an equivalent method.
              "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006



              Time, cost, or quality; pick any two but you can't have all three.


              • #8
                Re: Asbestos

                asbestos is bad for you


                • #9
                  Re: Asbestos

                  Originally posted by stokefire7 View Post
                  asbestos is bad for you
                  It is , I agree

                  My neighbor had this asbestos he had to remove on this old boiler he was removing and replacing with one of his buddies and they asked me to help them remove the Asbestos and I took some pictures - >( Asbestos Removal ) of the job if your interested, It was an OLD boiler as well, the cement had "1949" marked in it with a hand print, I thought that was kinda neat

                  I used to do asbestos removal for a steamfitting company years ago


                  • #10
                    Re: Asbestos

                    Hello all, to begin with I'm 58yo. My father was an insulator/pipecoverer, he started in 1948 or so in St. Louis. He died in Dec. of 1981. He had asbestosis/lung cancer, my MoM died in Nov. of 1982. She had emphyzema. They both smoked. I started in the trade in 1965 at the age of 15. Although I wasn't in the trade constantly during that time I was active for more than 30yrs in it. I used to smoke, quit 28yrs ago. I was exposed to AGENT ORANGE during the Viet Nam years.
                    All that said, asbestos is not a problem until it is disturbed and it becomes friable, loose, this causes airborne contamination. The latent period of asbestos is in the area of 25-35 years but there may not be enough evidence to accurately predict this time frame. I have known men who worked with the stuff for 30+ years and were never sick a day because of it. Then I knew men who were barely exposed to it and developed mesothelioma, 20yrs later, and died within 6 months.
                    Probably the best course of action is removal. The problem is that if the abater is a slam artist they can do more harm than good. And since this is such a SCARE issue the slam artist can prey on the fears of those he is slamming. I'm know there are laws and regulations that cover this but as we all know if there is a buck to be had there are going to be those who will lie, fake and bamboozle an unsuspecting homeowner. Do your homework get the facts.
                    The thing is if you breath this stuff now you won't know it for a while, a long while. As for me well at this time I have been told I have no scarring(lung), or other abnormalities. However I am short of breath and very susceptible to colds and the like. Oh yeah don't forget about FIBERGLASS insulation-----It gives off more fibers than asbestos. Nobody says much about that. Have a good one.
                    Last edited by jcburton13; 10-20-2008, 01:59 PM.