By Robin Mack, DHEC Asbestos Program Manager
When working on cleanup and rebuilding efforts after a natural disaster like the South Carolina floods of 2015, it is important to be aware of potential asbestos-containing materials that could pose a health risk if not handled properly. Disturbing materials made with asbestos during building repairs, renovations, or demolitions can release asbestos fibers or dust particles into the air allowing them to be ingested or inhaled.
Health Risks from Asbestos Exposure
People who are exposed to large amounts of asbestos over a time, such as contractors, and do not follow safety standards have an increased chance of experiencing harmful health effects. Asbestos can contribute to the development of lung cancer or other respiratory diseases. Disease symptoms may take many years to develop after being exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos in Homes
It is less common to find large quantities of asbestos in newer homes, but homes built before 1980 are the most likely to have asbestos containing materials. Asbestos has been used in a variety of building materials, such as: siding, ceiling and floor tiles, stucco, sheetrock, joint compound, ceiling texture (popcorn ceiling), caulking, construction mastic, insulation, and roofing materials.
If you think your home contains asbestos, it is best to call a licensed professional to remove it. To find a list of licensed contractors that can perform asbestos abatement and demolition activities in South Carolina, click here.
Minimizing Asbestos Exposure
If homeowners decide to do work on their homes themselves or hire a non-licensed asbestos contractor, the following work practices and procedures should be followed to minimize possible airborne asbestos fiber releases and exposure:
- Keep the material wet at all times to help keep asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. A low pressure garden sprayer adjusted to “mist” works well.
- Avoid tearing, ripping, chipping, cutting, or grinding materials that may contain asbestos, such as those listed above. These actions increase the potential for asbestos fibers to be released.
- Do not throw or drop materials that may contain asbestos to the ground. Instead, lower them carefully to prevent breakage and release of fibers to the air.
- Please sort flood debris into categories according to the graphic below to help speed up the collection process. For any questions about debris pick-up or drop-off, please contact your local waste management program.
For more information about asbestos, click here or call (803) 898-4289.
Robin, I appreciate you mentioning how improper disposal and handling of asbestos can cause harm not only to your family, but to the area. I live in an area that has a lot of old homes, and I was wondering if there is a way to easily tell if the house has asbestos in it, and the best way to get rid of them. I am thinking a licensed inspector will be needed, and some professional crews.
If you do live in an older home, you might want to get it checked out for asbestos. Now for me, I may want to get my home checked out. It’s quite old, built in the 70’s. Also, you are right that you should get it removed by a professional.