Asbestos is one of those things that is often describes as being "unexpected" when found during renovations, expansions or remodeling of older structures within the United States. A recent news story discusses the presence of asbestos being uncovered during construction work on BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport.
The story notes that the discovery does not pose a threat to travelers passing in through the airport, and we hope, not to employees who spend their entire workdays in the airport. The lack of threat will be due to the use of a licensed asbestos abatement contractor, and one hopes that they actually adhere to all mandated procedures to properly abate a building contaminated with asbestos. Nevertheless, it will make completion of the project more expensive.
But the larger concern is that this is presented as "unexpected." Asbestos was used in numerous industrial and construction materials. It was used as an insulating material for heat and electricity and as a binder in drywall material and plaster. It was used in flooring, ceiling tiles and shingles. It is often wrapped around heating ducts and pipes.
In addition to its sheer ubiquity is the lack of identifying labels. Because it was typically an ingredient in the building material, it is never clear if a floor or ceiling tile or a section of drywall or plaster contains asbestos. However, because of its ubiquity, there is a good chance that if the building was constructed prior to the mid-1990s, it contains asbestos within some of its constituent parts.
We have barely scratched the surface at the size of the future asbestos abatement issues we are facing in this country. On second thought, perhaps you should have licensed asbestos abatement contractor scratch that surface first, as there may be asbestos lurking there.