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What Is Asbestos Abatement?

October 26, 2023

In April 2022, the EPA proposed a complete ban on asbestos and began accepting comments about the prohibition for 60 days subsequent to its publication in the Federal Register.

In March 2023, the agency released further data, which it “may” use to develop its final rule, which is still pending, and sought public comments for 30 days. These data concern chrysotile asbestos diaphragms (used in the chlor-alkali industry) and chrysotile asbestos-containing sheet gaskets (used in chemical production).

This blog entry presents FAQs about the hazards of asbestos, its historical uses, the need for asbestos abatement, and the asbestos abatement process. Among them:

  1. What exactly is asbestos?
  2. Why was so much asbestos used?
  3. What is the source of asbestos?
  4. How many categories of asbestos are there?
  5. Is asbestos completely banned in the U.S.?
  6. What exactly is asbestos abatement?
  7. What is the process for asbestos abatement?
  8. Where can you find advice and help with asbestos abatement and disposal?

What exactly is asbestos?

Although you might think it’s a brand name, “asbestos” is actually the moniker for a naturally occurring mineral found in rock and soil. More accurately, it’s a “fibrous silicate mineral,” which means it’s made up of long and thin threadlike crystals, each of which is composed of many microscopic “fibrils” that can go floating into the air—and often do. This is a problem because inhaling such floating fibrils is known to cause a veritable hydra of respiratory diseases—and not only in the State of California. Among them are mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Why was so much asbestos used?

Its resistance to high temperature and flame makes “asbestos” virtually synonymous with “heat resistance.” It also has great fiber strength. So it has been used historically in many construction materials as both an insulator and a fire retardant. E.g., roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper goods, and asbestos cement products.

What is the source of asbestos?

Asbestos is usually mined from large, relatively pure earth deposits, or it might be a contaminate  stripped from other minerals (e.g., talc and vermiculite).

Asbestos was once mined throughout North America. But now, most of it comes from places like Kazakhstan, Russia, China, and similar exemplars of eco-stewardship.

Last we checked, according to the World Bank, China exported 68,402,385 pounds of asbestos in 2019. Kazakhstan was good for 480,252,787 pounds. And the Russian Bear weighed in with 1,436,025,037 pounds of the stuff (see source).

How many categories of asbestos are there?

Asbestos comes in six unhealthy flavors. Four are found in commercial and industrial products. These are chrysotile (the most ubiquitous), amosite, crocidolite, and anthophyllite. The other two—tremolite and actinolite—don’t have commercial uses.

  1. White asbestos (chrysotile) is the most common kind of asbestos and was used in roofs, ceilings, walls, and floors. It also showed up in gaskets; boiler seals; and as insulation for pipes, ducts, and appliances. Outside the U.S., asbestos is still used to make auto brake shoes, clutch pads, and transmission parts, which are often imported to the U.S.
  2. Brown asbestos (amosite) was used most often in cement sheets and pipe insulation. It was also found in insulating board, ceiling tiles, and thermal insulation products.
  3. Blue asbestos (crocidolite) was commonly used to insulate steam engines, as well as for some spray-on coatings, pipe insulation, plastics, and cement products.
  4. Anthophyllite was used in lesser quantities for construction materials and insulation products.

Is asbestos completely banned in the U.S.?

To date, 66 countries and territories have banned asbestos. But, although on the precipice, the U.S. remains one of the few developed countries to not do so completely.

What exactly is asbestos abatement?

This term refers to procedures that the EPA, OSHA, and other state or federal agencies require to curtail the release of asbestos fibers into the outdoor and indoor environments during construction and renovation activities.

Ironically, legacy asbestos isn’t dangerous if it’s just left alone. The trouble begins when ceilings, walls, or floors must be removed, encapsulated, or repaired. Then, those aforementioned fibrils get airborne and thereby inhaled by workers and everyone else nearby, which is exactly what asbestos abatement is supposed to prevent in the first place, which is where the irony comes in.

What is the process for asbestos abatement?

To begin, people aren’t permitted to enter an area where asbestos abatement is taking place, and that area must be sealed off from other parts of the building to prevent asbestos from migrating into other areas and contaminating them (see source).


Sealing an area begins with sheets of polyethylene film and duct tape. HVAC must be turned off. This is augmented with negative air pressure machines that are fitted with HEPA filters. The negative pressure pulls fresh air in, which effectively prevents asbestos fibrils from going out.

You can’t use an ordinary vacuum cleaner for asbestos abatement projects. So forget that Shop-Vac®. It’ll expel asbestos fibers right back into the room where you’re vacuuming. Instead, HEPA vacuums are used to collect dust stirred up during asbestos abatement projects so no asbestos particles pass through the exhaust and back into the air.

Surfaces not being abated should be covered with plastic sheeting.

Asbestos-containing waste must be sealed in leakproof containers while still wet, clearly labeled, and taken to qualified landfills by appropriately-licensed hazardous waste transporters.

Where can you find advice and help with asbestos abatement and disposal?

Getting asbestos abatement wrong can cause more problems than it solves, expose you to EPA sanctions and fines, as well as swell your asbestos containment costs.

Pursuant to the EPA Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan, asbestos abatement must be conducted by accredited professionals properly trained through courses and programs approved by the EPA or a state authority in one or more of five separate disciplines. These are Asbestos Abatement Worker, Asbestos Abatement Supervisor, Inspector, Management Planner, and Project Designer. Most states also require a licensure (see source).

A thorough guide on safe asbestos handling and disposal is provided, emphasizing the importance of adhering to strict safety protocols and legal requirements. It discusses the health risks from asbestos exposure, outlines professional abatement techniques, and explores innovative methods for recycling asbestos into non-toxic materials. This resource is crucial for comprehensive understanding and compliance in asbestos management.

For more detailed information, you can refer to their Guide to Handling, Disposing and Recycling Asbestos.

Don’t go it alone.

Contact Hazardous Waste Experts for licensed, bonded, and insured specialists providing specialized environmental services for asbestos abatement nationwide. Or call us at 1.877.200.2029.

And thank you for reading our blog!

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.