Asbestos removal laws regulate the removal of asbestos because asbestos has turned out to be such a terribly toxic substance. Thousands of people have come down with horrifying, painful cancers as a result of asbestos exposure. Asbestos can be inhaled, causing it to lodge in the respiratory system, and leading to such cancers as mesothelioma. This means that the presence of asbestos represents a danger, and yet the very removal of the asbestos also represents a real danger, as asbestos dust in the air may be inhaled.
As a result, there have been many lawsuits against the asbestos industry, and states have put into place asbestos abatement and removal laws and regulations.
The State of Washington’s regulations start out by warning that “Disturbed asbestos is very hazardous to building occupants and visitors. Non-friable asbestos that is left in place is not very hazardous to building occupants. Safe removal of asbestos usually requires respirators, liquid wetting agents, a negative air pressure enclosure and special training to prevent worker and building occupant exposure to the microscopic fibers. Certified abatement contractors have the training and equipment and will do air monitoring to make certain asbestos is not released during the project.”
Washington’s laws advise that “Asbestos, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite requires a survey by an accredited inspector prior to demolition, identification of asbestos containing materials, work practice controls, air monitoring, respirators and protective clothing, decontamination facilities, and medical surveillance,” and that “In the absence of a survey or if one cannot safely be performed, all surfacing materials and thermal system insulation in building constructed no later than 1980 must be presumed to contain asbestos.”
Washington’s asbestos removal law is fairly standard, and is as follows:
“(1) Before submitting a bid or working on an asbestos abatement project, any person or individual must obtain an asbestos contractor certificate as provided in WAC 296-65-017 and must have in its employ at least one certified asbestos supervisor responsible for supervising all asbestos projects undertaken by the contractor.
(2) A certified asbestos supervisor will not be required on asbestos projects involving less than three square feet or three linear feet of asbestos-containing material unless the surface area of the pipe is greater than three square feet. A certified asbestos supervisor is required for all Class I and II asbestos work in accordance with WAC 296-62-07728(4).
(3) No employee or other individual is eligible to do work or supervise an asbestos project without being issued a certificate by the department.
(a) Employees performing Class I or Class II asbestos work must be certified asbestos workers as specified in WAC 296-62-07722.
(b) Employees performing Class III or Class IV asbestos work specified by WAC 296-62-07722 as an asbestos project shall be certified asbestos workers.
(4) No person may assign any employee, contract with, or permit any individual, to work on an asbestos project as specified in WAC 296-62-07722 in any facility without the project being performed by a certified asbestos worker.
(5) A certified asbestos supervisor must provide direct, on-site supervision for an asbestos project. When an employer conducts an asbestos abatement project in its own facility by its own certified employees, supervision may be performed in the regular course of a certified asbestos supervisor’s duties. Asbestos workers must have access to and be under the control of certified asbestos supervisors throughout the duration of the project.
(6) Any construction, renovation, remodeling, maintenance, repair, or demolition which was started without meeting the requirements of this section must be halted immediately and cannot be resumed before meeting such requirements.
(1) No person may conduct an asbestos survey, develop an operation and maintenance plan, or
monitor and evaluate asbestos abatement unless trained and licensed as an asbestos consultant as
required by this chapter.”
Some states, or subdivisions thereof, offer an exemption for the homeowner who wants to perform their own asbestos removal, although to do so is not recommended!
Here is the exemption language from Brevard County, Florida:
“State law requires asbestos abatement to be done by licensed contractors. You have applied for a permit under an exemption to that law. The exemption allows you, as the owner of your property, to act as your own asbestos abatement contractor even though you do not have a license. You must supervise the construction yourself. You may move, remove or dispose of asbestos-containing materials on a residential building where you occupy the building and the building is not for sale or lease, or the building is a farm outbuilding on your property. If you sell or lease such building within 1 year after the asbestos abatement is complete, the law will presume that you intended to sell or lease the property at the time the work was done, which is a violation of this exemption. You may not hire an unlicensed person as your contractor. Your work must be done according to all local, state and federal laws and regulations which apply to asbestos abatement projects. It is your responsibility to make sure that people employed by you have licenses required by state law and by county or municipal licensing ordinances.”
If you are a homeowner, however, you are not advised to attempt to remove asbestos on your own, and you do so at your own risk, both health-wise and legally. Intentionally exposing yourself to the risk of asbestos, with the forewarning of risk, may serve to undermine any legal recourse you might otherwise have for harm from asbestos exposure.