Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs naturally in rock and soil. It is found all over the world, but is most commonly found in Canada. Asbestos has even been mined here in Eastern Pennsylvania. Asbestos fibers are strong, resistant to chemicals, and are a great insulator. Asbestos is also plentiful and cheap. Because of these properties, it has been used in well over 3,000 products.
The most common uses were for building products in floor tile, adhesives, roofing, transite siding, insulations, and fireproofing. Surprisingly, most asbestos products are not banned. They are just not manufactured in the United States anymore, but they can still be found in hardware and building supply stores. Asbestos materials can remain in buildings indefinitely as long as they are not a health threat.
Asbestos only becomes a health threat when it gets damaged and releases fibers into the air. Most exposures to asbestos fibers happen during demolition or renovations. They can also happen during more subtle activities such as vibrations, water damage or aging. Anything that causes asbestos fibers to become airborne is a potential health threat. Once inhaled, asbestos is known to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. There is no cure for asbestosis or mesothelioma. This is why asbestos is highly regulated.
The US EPA requires that all potential asbestos containing building materials are tested prior to demolition or renovations. The EPA then also requires that any asbestos containing material that can become damaged must be abated. ALM Abatement Services has the training and licensing to perform inspections for the presence and condition of asbestos materials. If asbestos is found, we can also provide recommendations and services for abatement and disposal.
In 1991, Lead-based paint was described by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as the “number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States.” Lead was added to paint to aid in drying, increase durability and resist corrosion to water. Some forms of lead were even added as a pigment. The US EPA stated that old lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the United States today. Almost all homes built during the 1960’s contain some amount of lead paint. Lead was used in paint up until it was banned for use in household paints in 1978. Lead is still used in some paints such as exterior line marking paint and metal primers.
Exposures to lead are mostly due to improper renovation activities such as dry scraping, sanding, abrasive blasting or open flame burning. Lead is a toxic metal and can enter the body in many ways. Most commonly, it enters the body by breathing lead dust in the air or by ingestion on dirty hands. It affects almost all systems of the body. At high levels, it can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. At low levels, lead can affect the brain, central nervous system, blood, and kidneys. Lead is especially dangerous to children. Even in low levels, lead in children causes delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems. Young children tend to have higher exposures of lead since they are more likely to play on contaminated floors.
Children can get lead dust on their hands and toys, and then put their hands or lead contaminated objects in their mouth. Special construction and cleaning techniques can help avoid exposures to lead during renovations. Contractors performing residential renovations are now required to be trained in any activity that engages in renovation repair, or painting activities in homes or child-occupied facilities that are built prior to 1978. These regulations require that all contractors must be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices, and use these work practices to guard against lead contamination.
It also requires that contractors provide information on lead safety prior to beginning work. Commercial contractors are also required to have special training, protective equipment, blood testing, and annual physicals in accordance with OSHA when their potential exposures reach a certain level. ALM’s owners and supervisors have been successfully completing lead abatement since the late 1980’s. Our most recent projects have included stabilizing damaged LBP in a residence as required by FHA, decontaminating an abandoned rifle range of lead dust from bullets, and chemically stripping the lead based paint from metal structural beams prior to welding.
Please contact our office if you are about to start a new project and you are concerned about the potential disturbance of a lead-based paint or lead contamination issue. We can help you with determining if the paint or dust contains lead, and also help you with dealing with any potential lead issues safely and cost effectively.
Mold and mold spores occur naturally and are common in everyday dust. Mold grows where spores, moisture and a food source exists. Food sources for mold can be dust, wood, paper, or sheetrock. Exposure to mold in large quantities is known to cause health issues. The most frequent symptoms to mold exposure in buildings are nasal congestion, eye irritation, respiratory problems, cough, sneezing, allergies, and headaches.
Typically, a small amount of mold is not a serious problem. Small amounts of mold can be treated by the homeowner or maintenance person with a detergent and by eliminating the moisture source. Large amounts of mold such as those caused by high humidity or from water damage should be handled by a trained remediation contactor. Improperly treating the mold can significantly increase exposures. The key to remediating mold is to eliminate the water source or the cause of high humidity (>60%). After that is done, remediation is best completed using HEPA filtered vacuums, HEPA filtered negative air units, installation of an air tight containment, scrubbing with a mold specific commercial detergent, and disposing of the mold in plastic waste bags.
Because of our experience with asbestos, mold and lead-based paint, we are especially good at completing demolitions where the creation of dust is a concern. We regularly perform demolition and abatement projects in hospitals, schools, and occupied buildings. Our projects range in size from small residential abatements, commercial fit-outs, up to the complete demolition of large industrial facilities. We are able to provide a turn-key service from budgeting, pre-demolition environmental inspections, hazardous materials remediation, asbestos abatement, universal waste packaging & disposal, and structural demolition. Our most recent demolition project was the gutting of a former three story government services building that is being renovated into 40+ apartment units. This work included stripping the interior of the building of all walls, ceilings, flooring, mechanical systems, electrical systems, remediation and the demolition of two large boilers.