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September 30, 2014

Guidelines To Handling Asbestos

Recent medical findings reveal that asbestos, a class of naturally occurring minerals, fibrous silicates that have long been known and used for their insulating properties and widely used for building materials, is hazardous to health, causing severe lung disorder called asbestosis and various forms of cancer especially lung cancer and cancer of the chest lining called mesothelioma. As a result, many buildings, houses, factories, offices and other establishments built before the 19th century, began evaluating their structures for possible asbestos-reinforced materials. In fact, when we were repairing and renovating our own seminary, the San Jose Seminary in Ateneo compound, we found out that it had asbestos roof and insulation all along! For years, we were exposed to this dangerous mineral!


The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and US Environmental Protection Agency produced some General Guidelines for Handling Products Containing Asbestos.

The agency warned that those who would deal with asbestos must have the proper training to handle them. If you are hiring a contractor, it would be good that they have all the necessary credentials to handle asbestos whether it will be banged, rubbed, taken apart, removed and disposed.

The procedures below must be followed:

  1. The work area must be sealed. The contractor must see to it that asbestos would not contaminate other areas. Containing asbestos dusts should be the contractor’s prime concern.
  2. A sign that the area is hazardous must be placed outside the work area. As much as possible, the work area must be restricted to workers only. Even pets should be barred from loitering in the area.
  3. Workers must be properly protected like wearing gloves, masks, hats, approved appropriate respirators, and clothing. These should also be carefully and properly disposed.
  4. The contractor should wet the asbestos-containing material with a hand spray. It is advised that a low-sudsing dish or laundry detergent be mixed with the water so as to increase the penetration of water in the material. The asbestos material should be damped enough so that they will not float in the air.
  5. Drilling or cutting asbestos material must be done inside a room. Guideline number four should also be applied.
  6. It is recommended that the asbestos-containing parts be removed as a whole. Cutting them to pieces allows particles to be released, thus endangering those who may come into contact with it.
  7. Asbestos-containing materials removed from structures should be disposed in a proper landfill. They must be placed in a sealed, leak-proof, properly labeled, plastic bags.
  8. The contractor should assure that after removal of the asbestos-containing material, the area is thoroughly cleaned with wet mops, wet rags, or sponges at least twice. Wetting should assure that asbestos fibers would not spread around. The materials used to clean the area should also be disposed properly.

Observing the necessary precautions for this delicate and very hazardous  material should free us from contracting diseases that maybe caused by being exposed to them. Just like what every warning sign would say, “Please be guided accordingly!”

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