Insulation abatement refers to the removal and disposal of materials containing asbestos to prevent dangerous fibers from release into the air. Insulation abatement is strictly regulated in some regions where the abatement process must meet defined standards to protect people performing insulation abatement. Fibers used in insulation products in the past can cause mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer directly linked to asbestos.
Most insulation abatement procedures require protective clothing to protect workers from asbestos fibers that might escape into the air. Removal experts recommend rubber boots and gloves, goggles, coverall clothing sealed with tape at the ankles and wrists, and a respirator. Insulation abatement should be done in a contained area sealed off from the rest of the building.
In some areas, insulation that becomes damaged or loose must be abated by professionals trained in insulation abatement. This rule typically applies to any asbestos removal in public buildings, to protect the public from accidental exposure to cancer-causing fibers. These licensed contractors obtain all necessary permits and document the entire insulation abatement and disposal process.
Laws in some areas also require permits and inspections when property owners remove materials containing asbestos. Property owners are typically permitted to perform the work themselves if the insulation has not become brittle or fragile. Any asbestos removed must still be discarded in a landfill approved to handle hazardous waste. It is typically buried to prevent airborne particles from entering the environment.
Typical instructions for insulation abatement include keeping the material soaked to prevent fibers from contaminating the air, especially if the insulation appears damaged. All removed insulation should be contained on plastic sheeting, which is later sealed into plastic trash bags. Abatement professionals recommend against sweeping or vacuuming when cleaning up, in order to avoid spreading asbestos fibers.
Insulation containing asbestos emits no odor and cannot be identified without a special microscope. Health experts assume any building constructed before or during the 1980s contains asbestos building materials. This insulation kept heat in the building and reduced the risk of fire damage. Asbestos was also used in vinyl floor tiles, pipe insulation, roofing shingles, and some siding. In some cases, it might be advisable to leave these materials in place if they are not damaged.
Mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lungs when asbestos fibers are inhaled, and the cancer might spread to the abdomen and heart. This form of cancer is almost always fatal and might show up years after exposure to asbestos. It is seen most often in people who worked in manufacturing plants that used asbestos and in shipyard workers, military veterans, and metal workers.