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Asbestos information for homeowners

Homeowners undertaking spring remodeling projects and other do-it-yourself construction projects need to take steps to protect their individual health and the health of their family and neighbors from asbestos. The information below will help you learn to identify asbestos, protect yourself from harmful airborne fibers and know what to do when you discover asbestos in your home.

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How to determine if asbestos is in your home

Asbestos was used widely in building materials throughout the 1900's. Use has decreased significantly since the 1970’s but there are some materials still in production today that contain asbestos. If your home was built prior to 1990, there is a high potential that asbestos-containing materials were used in its construction.

You can't identify asbestos simply by looking at it. Before conducting any remodeling, you should hire a professional to conduct a survey of possible asbestos-containing materials in your home. To be safe, treat all suspect materials as if they contain asbestos until you get samples analyzed. You should confirm the presence of asbestos by having suspect materials analyzed by a laboratory.

Prior to demolition, you should hire an accredited inspector to conduct a thorough survey of all materials to be demolished to determine the presence of asbestos. If asbestos is found, it should be properly removed and disposed.

You can find asbestos professionals in the yellow pages. An accredited inspector will have completed training and received accreditation through an EPA approved program under 40 CFR Part 763 Subpart E, Appendix C (Model Accreditation Plan), Section B (Initial Training), Subsection 3 (Inspector). You can find laboratories that analyze materials for asbestos in the yellow pages.

How to take a sample

A professional asbestos inspector can take samples and send them to a laboratory for analysis. If you are the home owner and this is your residence, then you can take a sample yourself. To avoid exposing anyone else, only you should be in the room when taking samples.

  1. Wet down the material with a light water mist before taking the sample. This reduces the potential release of asbestos fibers.
  2. Do not disturb the material any more than is necessary to take a small sample.
  3. Place the sample in a clean, air-tight container such as a zip-lock bag or small glass jar. Seal tightly.
  4. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or that might have spilled onto the floor.
  5. Clearly label the container, stating where and when the sample was taken.
  6. Send the sample to a laboratory for analyses. Make sure to take one sample for each different type of suspect material.
  7. Find a laboratory

If you have asbestos in your home

If the asbestos-containing material is NOT broken, worn, damaged or disturbed, it poses little or no danger. Asbestos removal involves disturbing the material and possibly putting asbestos into the air. Leaving asbestos containing material intact is often a safer option.

DEQ strongly recommends against repairing or removing asbestos-containing materials yourself. Removing asbestos properly requires special equipment and detailed training. An individual could cause asbestos fiber contamination throughout your home and neighborhood, exposing your family and others unknowingly. DEQ recommends you hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to ensure that the work is done properly.

However, the regulations allow for you to repair or remove asbestos in a house that you own and live in. If you do your own asbestos removal work, you are responsible for using the proper safety equipment and following all handling, transport and disposal regulations. Asbestos-containing waste requires special handling and disposal and must be deposited at a landfill authorized to handle asbestos waste.

Hiring the right contractor

DEQ issues licenses to contractors that meet the requirements of Oregon's asbestos program. Make sure the contractor you hire appears on DEQ's list of Licensed Asbestos Abatement Contractors. Hiring a licensed contractor ensures they have the knowledge to properly remove asbestos-containing materials, use safety equipment, have received specialized training, and their employees and supervisors are certified.

As part of obtaining a license from DEQ, contractors are required to submit the information described below. You should feel free to request this information from contractors to assist you in your selection.

  1. Registration with the Oregon Construction Contractors Board.
  2. Registration with the Oregon Business Registry Section of the Corporations Division.
  3. A list of certified workers and supervisors employed by the company.
  4. A list of asbestos abatement projects conducted in the prior year.
  5. A list of all asbestos-related enforcement actions taken against the company.

The following is not required, but would give you added confidence that a contractor is capable of conducting an asbestos abatement project properly:

  1. A list of all equipment that will be used for asbestos work. That list should include negative air machines, HEPA vacuums, type of respiration equipment they will use, scaffolding, decontamination facilities, disposable clothing.
  2. Written standard operating procedures and employee protection plans which include specific reference to Oregon OSHA medical monitoring and respirator training programs.
  3. Air sampling results from previous projects.
  4. References from previous clients.

Maintenance, repair and demolition

There's a good chance you can solve the problems without actually removing the asbestos. Removal is generally the last resort because it involves disturbing the material and sending more asbestos fibers into the air. In attempting a repair job, you should take a common sense approach to protecting yourself from possible exposure to asbestos fibers. We recommend eye protection and a respirator to minimize breathing in fibers, and protective clothing to minimize further contamination.

  • Repairing pipe, furnace and boiler insulation: If material is friable (moves at the touch or the cover no longer feels firm) the insulation is probably too deterioriated for repair. DEQ recommends you call a Licensed Asbestos Abatement Contractor.
    If the insulation is firm and the cover is tight, with very few holes or tears in the insulation (no more than one hole every 1-3 feet of pipe covering) should you consider repairing it yourself. Use a commercial product specifically designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas in asbestos pipe insulation. You can find them at safety supply stores that specialize in selling asbestos-removal products.
  • Repairing sprayed-on asbestos-containing walls and ceilings: If material has never been painted, a coat of penetrating or bridging encapsulant can be sprayed on with an airless sprayer to seal the surface. Do not use a brush or roller. Note: Encapsulant soaks into the wall or ceiling material and firmly adheres it to the sub-ceiling, making future removal more difficult.
  • Asbestos Information You Need Before Demolishing a Building
  • Residential Building Asbestos Survey Requirement

Removal of specific nonfriable products:

Some commonly found asbestos-containing materials that are nonfriable can be removed relatively safely. If you are the owner of the residence and also reside there, you can perform the removal yourself or hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. These documents offer guidelines on how to remove specific materials safely:

Guidance on how to remove friable asbestos-containing material (popcorn, furnace insulation, sheet vinyl and homeowner survey) is available to a homeowner who lives at the residence and would like to perform the removal themselves by contacting DEQ asbestos Staff. This is not recommended, but allowed.

If asbestos is released in your home

If you think a significant amount of asbestos has been released in your home:

  • Close off the part of the home where the release occurred.
  • Close off air ducts and vents.
  • Shut windows.
  • Tape bottoms of doors to prevent draft.
  • Contact a licensed asbestos abatement contractor or DEQ for information on what to do next.

Health impacts that are typically associated with being exposed to asbestos comes primarily from working for long periods of time around very high concentrations of fibers. Your health should not be impacted by a single exposure to asbestos fibers, but if you are concerned, please consult your doctor.

Disposing of asbestos-containing materials

All wastes contaminated with asbestos must be disposed of properly. In addition to all asbestos-containing materials, this includes all disposable clothing, respirator filters, safety equipment, materials used for containment, and materials used to clean up the area. All material must be placed in double 6 mil plastic bags, labeled as asbestos, and hauled to a landfill approved to accept asbestos.


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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
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