Junk Removal and Asbestos Awareness
Junk Removal and Asbestos Awareness
It’s time for spring cleaning, and that means getting rid of the extra clutter around the house. Throwing it away or donating it is usually a good option, but handling dangerous materials, particularly asbestos, is more difficult. A natural mineral mined from the earth and used since the days of ancient Rome, the fire-resistant substance reached the height of it popularity during World War II but was restricted by the federal government for safety reasons during the 1970s. Decades later, products like insulation, ceiling tiles, and exterior siding still contain the cancer-causing toxin. Researchers have linked it use to various illnesses, including a rare cancer called mesothelioma.
Why is it dangerous?
Asbestos-related cancer occurs when toxic substances damage DNA, the genetic material that determines when cells grow, divide or die. The American Cancer Society says around 80 percent of people with mesothelioma were exposed to the harmful fibers, causing inflammation and scarring in the lining of their lungs and chest cavity. Those who swallowed the substance may also have cancer in their abdominal lining. Not everyone gets sick, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says no amount of the fiber is safe.
Can homeowners dispose of asbestos?
People who worked around mines, factories, constructions sites, and military ships face the highest chances of developing cancer and breathing problems, but anyone who spends time in an asbestos-containing building under renovation or in disrepair is at risk. If the material stays intact, it is relatively safe, but when it deteriorates or comes apart, it releases tiny fibers into the air. The only way to avoid inhaling the particles is to use protective equipment and procedures recommended by the EPA.
While homeowners can remove the materials themselves, the EPA recommends hiring a professional to examine the building, identify any dangerous materials, and advise residents of the safest way to proceed. Recommendations for mitigation vary from sealing or covering the questionable surfaces to bringing in trained workers to eliminate the health hazards.
Is it safe to recycle?
Just as there are no clear-cut answers for toxic buildings, the recycling process itself is a gray area. Waste removal usually means transferring the substance to approved landfills, but workers must first wet it to keep the fibers from entering the air. Then, they must seal it, label it, and place it in a designated area. After disposal, it becomes the job of the landfill to make sure the particles don’t become airborne or get crushed by a compactor.
Companies that remove residue from environmentally unsound buildings not only know how to handle the job effectively, but they also know whether the waste can be safely recycled. Because products with no damage or those that have been sealed may not need to be removed, removal teams can sometimes salvage building supplies for repairs in older homes. This provides a service to contractors and homeowners, and it helps the environment.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration provides comprehensive information on environmental health hazards and ways of evaluating and controlling the risk of exposure, but the job requires extensive knowledge and specialized equipment. Waste removal teams have the proper gear to do the job, they help the economy by recycling, and they reduce the amount of waste in landfills. Some jobs are best left to the pros.
written by Max Schmidt