When working on cleanup and rebuilding efforts after a natural disaster like the South Carolina flood of 2015, it is important to be aware of potential asbestos-containing materials that could pose a health risk if not handled properly. Disturbing materials made with asbestos during building repairs, renovations, or demolitions can release asbestos fibers or dust particles into the air allowing them to be ingested or inhaled.
Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance, asbestos has been used in a variety of building materials such as siding, ceiling and floor tiles, stucco, sheetrock/joint compound, ceiling texture (popcorn ceiling), caulking, mastics, insulation, and roofing materials. Regardless of the age of a building, asbestos containing materials may have been used during construction of the building. Structures built before 1980 are the most likely to have asbestos containing materials. Newer buildings are less likely to have large quantities of asbestos.
Federal and state asbestos regulations typically do not apply to work done in residential buildings having four or fewer dwelling units. However, if a homeowner wants a licensed asbestos contractor to remove materials, make repairs, or renovate or demolish their home, the contractor must comply with all asbestos regulations. The regulations do apply to any institutional, commercial, public, or industrial building (including condominiums or individual dwelling units operated as a residential cooperative).
Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by disturbing asbestos-containing materials during building repairs, renovations, or demolitions. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in such a way to release dust particles and fibers into the air. Asbestos containing materials that have not been disturbed can safely remain in place.
People exposed to asbestos on a regular basis, such as contractors who do not follow federal and state health-protective regulations for asbestos, are most at risk for developing asbestos related diseases. Those who are exposed to large amounts of asbestos over a period of time have a greater chance of developing harmful health effects, such as lung cancer or other respiratory diseases. Disease symptoms may take many years to develop after being exposed to asbestos.
If homeowners decide to do work on their homes themselves or hire a non-licensed asbestos contractor, the following work practices and procedures should be followed to minimize airborne asbestos fiber releases and personal exposure:
Owners of regulated buildings must use Department licensed asbestos removal contractors to remove regulated asbestos containing materials before renovation or demolition activities can take place. These contractors must comply with state and federal asbestos regulations.
DHEC issues licenses for asbestos contractors. View a list of licensed contractors that can perform asbestos abatement and demolition activities in South Carolina.
For additional information about asbestos visit Air Quality: Asbestos or by calling (803) 898-4289.