Safe removal of all types of Asbestos Containing Material
- Roof sheet
- Roof tiles
- Internal Walls and Ceilings
- Gutters & Downpipes
- Soffits Fascias and Gables
Asbestos roof assessments and repairs
Roof painting, sealing and waterproofing
Occupational Hygiene Services from Registered AIA (Approved Inspection Authority)
- Drafting of Asbestos Safe Work Plan as per legal requirement
- Air Monitoring
- Clearance certificate
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos (Greek a-,”not”; sbestos, “extinguishable”), is the collective name for a group of naturally occurring minerals in their fibrous form, and hydrous silicates of magnesium. The fibres are strong, durable and resistant to fire. They are long, thin and flexible so they can be woven into cloth. The Romans made cremation cloths and wicks from it.
Due to these qualities, asbestos has been used in thousands of consumer, industrial, maritime, automotive, scientific and building products. During the twentieth century some 30 million tons of asbestos has been used in industrial sites, homes, schools, shipyards and commercial buildings.
Asbestos is of two principal classes, the amphiboles and the serpentines, the former of relatively minor importance. Chrysotile, in the serpentine class, constitutes about 95 percent of the world supply of asbestos, of which three-fourths is mined in Québec. Other large deposits exist in South Africa. In the United States, California, Vermont, and Arizona are the leading asbestos-producing states; however, the majority of United States deposits are of no commercial value.
Types of asbestos fibres:
- Chrysotile or “white asbestos” comes mainly from Canada and has been very widely used. It is white-grey in colour and is found in serpentine rock.
- Amosite or “brown asbestos” comes from Southern Africa.
- Crocidolite or “blue asbestos” comes from Southern Africa and Australia.
- Tremolite, Actinolite, Anthophyllite are contaminants in asbestos although they have not been used commercially.
- Exposure to Asbestos fibres and dust can pose serious health risks.
Asbestos Procedures and Methods
Asbestos is obtainable by various underground mining methods, but the most common method is open-pit mining. Only about 6 percent of the mined ore contains usable fibres.
The fibres are separated from the ore by crushing, air suction, and vibrating screens, and in the process are sorted into different lengths, or grades. The most widely used method of grading, the Québec Standard Test Method, divides the fibres into seven groups, the longest in group one and the shortest, called milled asbestos, in group seven. The length of the fibres, as well as the chemical composition of the ore, determines the kind of product that can be made from the asbestos. The longer fibres have been used in fabrics, commonly with cotton or rayon, and the shorter ones for molded goods, such as pipes and gaskets.
In 1986 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed an immediate ban on the major uses of asbestos and the complete ban on all asbestos products within the next decade.
Common to many asbestos-containing products is that they are used to contain heat (thermal insulation). It is impossible to list all the products that contain asbestos. Some of the common asbestos-containing products are:
- insulating cementinsulating block
- asbestos cloth
- packing materials
- thermal seals
- refractory and boiler insulation materials
- transite board
- asbestos cement pipe
- fireproofing spray
- joint compound
- vinyl floor tiling
- ceiling tiles
- acoustical textures
- duct insulation
- ventilation and air-conditioning
- roofing products
- insulated electrical wire and panels
- brake and clutch assemblies
Why is Asbestos still a Problem?
A great deal of it has been widely used and currently remain in buildings, ships, industrial facilities and other environments. The fibres become airborne and pose serious human health hazards.
What is Asbestos Containing Material?
Thermal System Insulation. Asbestos includes chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite asbestos, anthophyllite asbestos, actinolite asbestos, and any of these minerals that have been chemically treated and/or altered. Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) means any material containing more than one percent asbestos.
Types of Asbestos
The three most common forms of asbestos fibers are chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite:
Chrysotile is classified as a sheet silicate, that forms flat sheets of long, thin fibers. These fibers are the most flexible of all asbestos fibers as they can withstand the fiercest heat but are so soft and flexible that they can be spun and woven as easily as cotton. They had been in corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets typically used for outbuilding such as warehouses and garages.
Amosite is also known as ‘brown asbestos’ and is like crocidolite, a member of the amphibole group. It has harsh spiky fibers that have good tensile strength and resistance to heat and was used frequently as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products and in ceiling tiles.
Crocidolite is also known colloquially as ‘blue asbestos’ and is a member of the amphibole group. They are needle like fibers that are the strongest of all asbestos fibers and have a high resistance to acids. They are known to be the most lethal of all asbestos types. They were commonly used to insulate steam engines, and were found in pipe insulation and cement products
Why is Asbestos Dangerous
Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.
Diseases associated with exposure to asbestos
The people with the largest exposure to asbestos have the greatest risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease.
Asbestosis is a disease of the lungs that is caused by exposure to high levels of asbestos dust and is common in asbestos miners, mill workers, insulation workers and other occupations that use asbestos on a regular basis.
Asbestosis – Scarring of lung tissue reducing ability to take oxygen.
Lung cancer is also related to exposure to asbestos. It is fatal especially if not caught in its early stages. It can occur with low levels of exposure such as those that occur in the general environment. Higher lung cancer rates are linked to all three types of commercially mined asbestos.
Malignant Mesothelioma develops after exposure to asbestos.
In South Africa about 200 mesothelioma cases are reported every year but this is most likely an underestimate considering the magnitude of mining and processing that took place in a country that was a leading global supplier of three types of asbestos.
Mesothelioma – South Africa, Mesothelioma is a rare incurable cancerous disease usually caused by exposure to asbestos, in which malignant cells form a tumour in the mesothelium (the outer lining that protects the body’s major organs such as the stomach, heart, and lungs) – the most common site is the pleura (the outer lining of the lungs and chest cavity).
When is Asbestos Dangerous?
The most common way for asbestos fibres to enter the body is through breathing. In fact, asbestos containing material is not generally considered to be harmful unless it is releasing dust or fibres into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested. Many of the fibres will become trapped in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat where they can then be removed, but some may pass deep into the lungs or, if swallowed, into the digestive tract. Once they are trapped in the body, the fibres can cause health problems.
Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable. The term “friable” means that the asbestos is easily crumbled by hand, releasing fibres into the air. Sprayed-on asbestos insulation is highly friable. Asbestos floor tile is not.
Asbestos-containing ceiling tiles, floor tiles, undamaged laboratory cabinet tops, shingles, fire doors, siding shingles, etc. will not release asbestos fibres unless they are disturbed or damaged in some way. If an asbestos ceiling tile is drilled or broken, it may release fibres into the air. If it is left alone and not disturbed, it will not release fibres into the air.
Damage and deterioration will increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials. Water damage, continual vibration, aging and physical impact such as drilling, grinding, buffing, cutting, sawing or striking, can break the materials down making fibre release more likely.
Because it is so hard to destroy asbestos fibres, the body can not break them down or remove them once they are lodged in lung or body tissue. They remain in place where they can cause fatal disease.
There are three primary diseases associated with asbestos exposure
Asbestosis (Pulmonary Fibrosis)
is a serious, chronic, non-cancerous respiratory disease. Inhaled asbestos fibres aggravate lung tissue which causes them to scar (fibrosis). Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, a dry crackling sound in the lungs upon inhalation, cough, chest pain, nail abnormalities or clubbing of the fingers. In it’s advanced stages the disease may cause cardiac failure.
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There is no treatment for asbestosis. The disease is usually disabling or fatal. The risk of asbestosis is minimal for those who do not work with asbestos; the disease is rarely caused by neighbourhood or family exposure. Those who renovate or demolish buildings that contain asbestos may be at significant risk, depending on the nature of the exposure.
is an accumulation of fluid between the layers of the membrane lining, the lung and the chest cavity. Pleural fluid is normally formed in small amounts to lubricate the surfaces of the “pleura,” the thin membrane that lines the chest cavity and surrounds the lungs. A “pleural effusion” is an abnormal collection of this fluid.
Two different types of effusions can develop. Transudative pleural effusions are usually caused by a disorder in the normal pressure in the lung. Congestive heart failure is the most common type of transudative effusion. Exudative effusions form as a result of inflammation of the pleura, which is often caused by lung disease. Cancer, tuberculosis and other lung infections, drug reactions, and asbestosis are some of the diseases that can cause exudative pleural effusions.