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EPA Asbestos Regulations Criticized by Inspector General

Because millions of buildings were constructed in the last century with asbestos, something needs to be done with that asbestos when the building is demolished. A contractor could remove that asbestos prior to the demolition, but that add considerably to the price.

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, a demolition contractor may use water to spray the building and soak the asbestos-containing products. This prevents the release of the asbestos from the materials in these old buildings that has become friable, meaning the materials can break and turn to dust, releasing asbestos fibers to the environment and the lungs on anyone in the vicinity.

The EPA's guidelines for this removal process have been described by the agency's inspector general as "woefully out of date." The current standard was created in 1973, and have apparently never been updated.

This is not surprising, as the removal of asbestos-contaminated buildings may be seen by many as a low-priority issue of little importance. They incorrectly believe that asbestos was "banned" in the 1980s, and that the problem has gone away.

The problem has never gone away and those buildings containing asbestos are slowly deteriorating and falling down around us. According to the inspector general's report, one issue is the water used to soak the building can runoff and carry asbestos fibers in the wastewater.

This untreated water can then contaminate the soil, which will eventually dry and when that soil turns dusty, the asbestos can be released back in to the air, where unsuspecting victims can inhale the deadly material.

The EPA disagreed with some of the IG's recommendations over testing, but did agree to work to update and consolidate their regulations. The inexorable march of time means every day more buildings will be added to the list of those that need to be demolished.

It is vital that EPA recognized this threat and put in place regulations that adequately protect the safety of workers and the public who could be increasingly exposed to this risk as the nation's building stock ages.

Source:, "EPA's Asbestos Guidelines Pose Serious Threat to Public Health, Says Agency’s Own Inspector General," Anastasia Pantsios, June 18, 2015

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