October 23, 2011

Do realtors need to be concerned about asbestos?

Of course! As a real estate professional, it is important to know about all the hazards that can come with a home purchase. That is why you should take the next couple minutes and get acquainted with it.

As a real estate professional, it is beyond your fiduciary duty to walk around and try to identify asbestos containing materials in homes you intend to sell. It probably won’t help you to close the deal either.

A basic knowledge of what asbestos is can show your well roundedness as an agent, and maybe save you some trouble down the road.

So what is asbestos?

The name “asbestos” originated with the Ancient Greeks, it means “Inextinguishable.” The Ancient Greeks found asbestos to be useful even though they knew that it caused illness. Thousands of years later it is still being used, even though it causes major health problems and even death.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines asbestos as, “The name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals.”

In the home asbestos can be found in floor tiles, insulation, spray coatings for ceilings and walls, Gypsum board, texture coatings and lagging. Asbestos is useful in the home because it is fire resistant, it works well as an insulator, it can withstand tension without tearing apart and it doesn’t rot mold or corrode. It also can be found in the air surrounding these materials, if they are disturbed.

Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some point in time as it can be in the air and the water, but having prolonged exposure with large amounts can cause major illness resulting in death. The National Cancer Institute says that over exposure to asbestos could result in nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders, lung cancer, Mesothelioma, and Asbestosis.

Asbestosis is a lung disease that is directly caused by breathing in asbestos particles. A person infected with Asbestosis is will have difficulty breathing, experience chronic coughing and chest pain. This is due to the permanent damaged that is done to the lung tissue due to inhalation of asbestos.

It is a general rule that homes built before 1980-1982 may have a likelihood of containing asbestos building materials. Unlike Lead paint with the 1978 date set for disclosure, asbestos was never quite made illegal. It has been found in drywall and joint compounds sold currently in some big box retailers; many of these materials are imported from China and Mexico.

The good thing about asbestos is that if left undisturbed it most likely will not pose a threat. It becomes an issue when these materials are left to degrade and flake or construction results in their demolition. Non-friable asbestos does not pose a threat, while friable does.

Friability (or friable)
The ability of a solid substance to be reduced to smaller pieces with little effort. Often, substances designated as being hazardous, such as asbestos or crystalline silica are referred to as being friable if they are present in such a state that it is possible for small particles to easily become dislodged, thus enabling them to become respirable (able to enter human lungs), posing a health hazard.

Asbestos is all around us. It should never be demolished, removed, or transported unless you are a trained professional. This is not your Handyman or Contractor! Where do you find a trained professional? Well, not our company, Tahoe Mold and Water. We don’t do this work, though are happy to refer a few reputable businesses that do. Just call us at 530-583-6653 (MOLD).

Asbestos abatement roles

There are two separate roles with any asbestos abatement:

  • The Asbestos Assessor or IEP (Indoor Environmental Professional) — This person will take samples and determine whether the sampled materials are ACMs. (Asbestos Containing Materials) Then write an abatement protocol. (Procedure for how an abatement contractor is to do the work). At the end, they will do a final inspection to make sure the job was done right.
  • Asbestos Abatement Contractor — This guy receives the report from the Asbestos Assessor. Follows the protocol for asbestos removal, which should go like this:
    1. Set up engineering controls- They will contain the area using plastic and duct tape to create a barrier around the work. Then using an air scrubber which is a big fan with a filter, they push air through temporary duct work out of the work area. This creates negative pressure in the work area, so all airborne asbestos is sucked out the negative air machine, and not allowed to escape into adjacent parts of the structure that are outside the work area.
    2. Remove the asbestos containing materials. Sometimes treating them, or spraying them with a sticky substance to reduce dust prior to tearing them out in a manner as not to create much dust.
    3. Transport the material to a proper waste facility. This requires a hazardous materials transportation license.
    4. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air filter) Vacuum and damp wipe (wiping down all surfaces with a damp cloth) the work area.
    5. Pass IEP (Indoor Environmental Professional) inspection-the Assessor who first inspected the project will now re-inspect after the work to confirm the contractor has done his job.

When you find Asbestos, you don’t need to remove it all. You only need to remove what needs to be disturbed to do the construction, or what poses a threat of becoming friable. Many homes have asbestos. It is a very common building material, and as we mentioned, new houses have it. So finding asbestos should not be a deal breaker. As with many things, information is key to making an informed decision.

Tahoe Mold and Water offers free consultation to Real Estate Agents and their clients. We are happy to answer some of those tricky questions so you don’t have to. Call Ned at 530-448-6494.

Tip of the month
If water damage occurs to a house, most insurance companies will pay for damaged asbestos materials to be removed from the home to restore it to its pre-loss condition.
If your client is dealing with home damage, give us a call. We can deal directly with all insurance companies and warranty our work.
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