KDHE Recommends Precautions for Removing Debris that May Contain Asbestos
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is reminding residents in storm-damaged areas to take precautions against possibly being exposed to asbestos while removing and disposing of debris.
Asbestos was used extensively in construction and building materials prior to 1980.* People can be exposed to asbestos by inhaling airborne asbestos fibers and dust from asbestos-containing materials. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to lung diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
KDHE regulations require that any contractor removing asbestos be licensed. If homeowners elect to do the work themselves, KDHE recommends the following work practices to help minimize possible exposure to asbestos when performing debris removal and demolition activities:
- Workers should wear a respirator for protection, as well as gloves to help keep dust and fibers off of hands. Coveralls, hard hats and other protective clothing should also be worn when possible.
- Shower and wash thoroughly after debris removal, to remove dust and fibers on your body that could later become airborne.
- Materials being removed from damaged structures that were built before 1980 should be dampened with water under low pressure before removal, to minimize dust and fibers.
- Only disturb materials that need to be removed, in order to prevent the needless release of dust and fibers.
- Knock down structures wall-by-wall, folding each wall in on itself to minimize excess breakage of asbestos-containing material. During demolition, the structure should be kept wet to minimize the release of fibers.
- Materials that could contain asbestos should be kept wet and covered by a tarp or other enclosure while being transported on a vehicle for disposal. These materials must be disposed only at approved sites. Consult with KDHE personnel on-scene for direction.
- Consult with a licensed contractor or emergency personnel trained in asbestos removal and disposal whenever possible.
Materials that could contain asbestos include the following items in structures built before 1980:
- Ceiling and floor tiles
- Textured ceilings
- Roofing materials, including shingles and roofing felt
- Vermiculite attic insulation
- Pipe wrapping materials
- Acoustical panels
- Asbestos-cement materials, such as pipes, millboard and corrugated sheet items
*Correction 8/25/08: In the news release above, there is reference to the year 1980 that implies that construction and building materials containing asbestos were not used after that time. This implication is incorrect, asbestos can actually still be found in some building materials today.