How do I Remove Asbestos?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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Asbestos is an extremely dangerous substance that was once a mainstay of construction material. Though now banned in construction in many places, its widespread use makes it quite likely to show up in ceiling and wall material in older homes and buildings. Asbestos is best removed by qualified and certified environmental technicians, and many areas now have laws prohibiting the removal of asbestos-contaminated material by nonprofessionals.

A naturally-formed chain of fibers found in certain rocks, asbestos was once adored for its fire-resistant properties. In the days of gaslamp lighting, asbestos curtains were a necessity in theaters to prevent the whole stage from catching on fire should a lamp get knocked over. In construction, asbestos containing materials were often favored for use in insulation and to provide fire protection. Unfortunately, it was not for many years that its harmful effects were fully understood, and many lives were lost in the process of learning its dangers.

Although it may seem time- and money-saving to remove asbestos without professional help, it can be extremely dangerous. If the fibers are inhaled, they can remain in the body permanently, clogging airways and lungs. Diseases related to asbestos exposure include many forms of cancer, tumors, and mesothelioma. As the fibers can travel, exposure can affect anyone nearby, including family members, children, and pets. With exposure always a possibility, it may be well worth the time or money to allow professionals to remove asbestos.


The quickest way to know if asbestos is present is to have materials tested by an asbestos abatement company or environmental testing agency. The substance is quite common in roof tiles, ceilings, and insulation, but can be found in any layer of construction. Testing companies will require a small sample of each type of material, that are then analyzed through a polarized light microscopy or PLM test. Results are often available in less than a day, if requested. Some experts recommend testing building materials for asbestos before beginning any remodeling project in an older home.

If any fibers are present, an abatement team can be hired to remove asbestos safely. Using specialized suits and breathing equipment, professionals can tear out any asbestos-positive material while taking precaution to avoid exposure. Hiring an abatement contractor is often the only legal way to remove asbestos. Laboratories that test for asbestos can often recommend an abatement firm that can meet homeowner needs.

Some areas do allow homeowners to remove asbestos after applying for a permit. If determined to complete the job without professional assistance, be certain to wear protective clothes, goggles and a breathing respirator. Follow any and all guidelines to remove asbestos provided by the permitting body. If exposure does occur, see a doctor at once and inform them of the issue.



Discuss this Article

Post 3

@browncoat - Actually, one of the ways in which asbestos is dealt with these days is to just cover it up and leave it. Which is the cheapest way to deal with it and makes sense if you think about it. As long as it can't get into the air, it's not dangerous. As long as people know that it's there and aren't planning on knocking down any walls, then it shouldn't become dangerous.

It's only dangerous if it becomes damaged and the particles have a chance to get into your lungs and membranes. Otherwise it's just another material.

Of course, this is just putting off the fact that it will have to be fixed at some point and you do

have to make sure that it's completely safe and stable which usually takes some kind of construction. But if you really can't afford to remove it professionally and your local council allows it, then this is the option I would take.
Post 2

@pleonasm - Asbestos is one of the reasons you really have to make sure you get a property thoroughly checked out before you buy it, or even move into it as a rental. Asbestos is a long term problem and constant exposure to it can affect you and your family for the rest of your lives.

I would never try to remove asbestos without professional help and I understand why they require you to have a permit to do so. You could be endangering your entire neighborhood if you make a mistake.

Post 1

It can be expensive to go to asbestos removal companies, but make sure that you've investigated all your financial possibilities. You might be able to get a grant or some other kind of assistance from the government, or it might be possible that, when you purchased your house, there was something in the contract regarding what would happen in the case that asbestos was discovered. It's a long shot, but the cost to remove asbestos properly can be very high, no matter how you choose to do it.

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