Asbestos is that scary word that we don't like to talk about too much and we certainly hope is not in our homes but a recent article by Oregon live.com suggested that hundreds of Portland homes that have recently been demolished had asbestos. Last year, a Southeast Portland house was demolished sending a plume of grayish brown dust into the air. This dust spread everywhere creeping into neighbors homes, billowing in the sky and causing health problems from nearby homeowners.
Oregon regulations require that licensed contractors remove asbestos before any demolition. At the time of the demolition of the Southeast Portland home, the demolition crew was wearing no masks and there was no removal of asbestos before the demolition. Federal regulations state that workers who might inhale asbestos fibers must wear protective gear including hooded polyethylene coveralls and respirators.
The Department of environmental quality understands that rules are not strong enough to keep most people safe during these demolitions including neighboring homeowners. However the state, for some reason, has shied away from imposing even modest measures to strengthen these roles. Hundreds if not thousands of homes have been demolished with asbestos still inside them estimating upwards of 650 homes annually statewide.
With all this being said, there were a higher number of demolition permits issued in 2014 that anytime during the past decade, so were hoping that more people are seriously understanding the ramifications of these types of demolitions. "Industry experts and state environmental regulators say that because almost every home facing demolition [was built or remodeled before the 1970s], 80 to 90% can be expected to have asbestos." [Source]
So What Can You Do?
Technically, if asbestos is not disturbed it is completely harmless. New state legislation prompted by community action will require contractors or owners to look for asbestos before demolishing house starting in 2016. Visual inspections of your home are typically not enough to determine if you have asbestos. You'll need to take samples of suspected asbestos fibers to be analyzed by certified laboratory. From there, it depends on where the asbestos is in the home and if it needs to be removed. In some cases, asbestos-containing materials may be repaired or isolated rather than removed. Small tears in pipes, a ceiling repair etc. However, asbestos removal is the only permanent solution to the problem of asbestos in the home and it does pose a high risk of fiber release is not done properly. This is certainly not something you would want to tackle on your own. You'll need to choose a competent professional who is certified to remove asbestos. You'll first want to contact your regional EPA office, the local health department and the Better Business Bureau for a list of professionals to choose from. The EPA also recommends that the professional that performs the work be independent from the contractor who initially inspects the home.
Again, many Portland homes built prior to 1970 have some form of asbestos but as long as it is not disturbed it is perfectly safe. If you're planning any major remodels or concerned about asbestos in your home contact the local health department for steps on how to deal with it both now and in the future.