What is Asbestos?


Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals, which, due to its fibrous characteristics, strength, durability, resistance to fire, insulation, and acoustical properties, was added to many building materials manufactured in the United States until the late 1980s. Asbestos may also currently be present in some recently manufactured materials imported into the U.S. Asbestos was mined in the U.S. as recently as 2002.


Is asbestos really that bad?


Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause an array of respiratory diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Asbestos-related diseases can emerge decades after exposure and prolonged exposure may result in serious health problems and death.


What building materials contain asbestos?


A large number of building materials are considered suspect asbestos-containing materials including wall textures, plaster, floor tile, sheet vinyl flooring, adhesives, binders, wall insulation, pipe insulation, caulks, glazes, gaskets, ceiling tiles, sink undercoatings, transite baffling, roofing materials, and many more.


Do buildings constructed after 1989 have asbestos?


Yes. Although a number of asbestos bans were passed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) between 1973 and 1990, some asbestos-containing materials are still permitted to be used and much of the 1989 final rule banning asbestos-containing materials was overturned. The EPA was also required to allow companies to sell their remaining stock of asbestos-containing materials following the passage of regulatory bans. Asbestos may be found in many buildings that were built and/or renovated from the late 1800s through the present day.


Are asbestos-containing building materials still produced?


The use of asbestos in new construction projects has been banned for health and safety reasons, but it is possible for some materials produced in other countries, as well as materials containing 1% or less asbestos may still be found in our stores and buildings. Though not a building material, asbestos-containing brake pads for large trucks are still produced and used today.


Do I need to have an asbestos inspection?


If you plan to renovate, remodel, demolish, or otherwise disturb building materials in your home or business, then an asbestos inspection needs to be conducted prior to performing work. This will help you determine if abatement of asbestos-containing materials is required to prevent exposure to yourself, workers, and the public.


I have just a small amount of asbestos, what do I need to do?


If you have determined that only a very small amount of asbestos under the trigger levels set by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has been or will be disturbed in your home, many of the state and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations regarding asbestos may not apply to your situation. However, all asbestos-containing materials must be disposed of properly and workers disturbing asbestos-containing materials must be notified and protected as per Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), regardless of amounts. KEMWest recommends that any amount of asbestos only be handled by experienced and certified individuals.


Are certified asbestos abatement/renovation workers required if affected building materials contain less than or equal to 1% asbestos?


According to the EPA and CDPHE, any material containing less than or equal to 1% asbestos is not defined as an asbestos-containing material, and is not required to be abated or removed by certified asbestos abatement workers. However, OSHA regulations still apply to any work performed that will disturb those materials.


What causes asbestos to spread?


Asbestos fibers can be spread through air movement and physical disturbance in a number of scenarios. If an asbestos-containing material is friable, meaning it can be crushed into a powder using finger pressure, then asbestos fibers may be disturbed and spread into the air by simple physical damage, such as knocking down popcorn ceiling texture with a broom, or making a hole in the wall with a heavy piece of furniture. Often this kind of occurrence leads to a minor or major asbestos spill. This can be common in the case of fire in a home, in which many building materials are damaged and firefighters must further damage building materials to suppress the spread of fire. Other ways that asbestos contamination may spread throughout a space involve renovation and demolition work, especially that which renders asbestos-containing materials friable, such as sanding, cutting, or grinding. Asbestos may also be spread physically when an individual walks through a contaminated area and tracks fibers attached to shoes and clothing.


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When do I need to have a lead inspection?


Unless you presume a surface to contain lead-based paint, paint testing must be performed prior to renovation on all painted surfaces in target housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978. Exclusions exist for homeowners performing renovations in their own homes, and for homeowners willing to sign an "opt-out" statement releasing a Lead Certified Renovation Firm from work practices in the EPA's Lead Safety for Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule.


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Why does mold need to be remediated?


The presence of visible mold can be an indication that you have a moisture issue nearby. It is important to address the source of the moisture before remediating the mold. Mold can cause or trigger a variety of health issues, including asthma and allergies. For this reason it is important to remediate visible mold in your home. Mold spores are easily spread through the air when disturbed, so it is a good idea to have mold remediated by experienced professionals, and to have an air clearance performed to verify adequate remediation.


If I don't have Stachybotrys spp. does that mean I don't have a mold problem?


No. There are over 100,000 types of fungi, with spores from those fungi populating the outdoors and indoors in varying concentrations at all times. Many of these types of fungi can lead to visible mold growth, and may cause or trigger health issues. Any visible mold growth should be remediated.


A mold air clearance shows that I still have lots of mold spores in my house. Why didn't the clearance fail?


Many types of fungal spores are naturally present in different concentrations in our homes and outside at all times so no remediation effort can eliminate every spore inside a containment or home. Interpreting mold air sample results is a complex skill involving comparison of spore concentrations in various air spaces, as well as a knowledge and consideration of many local and temporal environmental factors affecting the spore distributions.


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What can I do if I suspect past meth activities in my home or prospective home?


Past or recent meth activities can permanently contaminate hard surfaces and can be absorbed into soft surfaces in your home. Tests can be performed to detect the presence and concentration of chemicals used in the production and use of meth in your home's building materials. These tests can help pinpoint the likely location where meth activities occurred. If meth is present in your home extensive cleaning measures must be taken that are in accordance with cleanup standards established by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.


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I'm considering a property for purchase, what should I test for?


If you have reasons to be concerned about past meth use or production in the property you wish to purchase, tests can be performed to determine the presence of meth chemicals. If you would like to determine the presence of asbestos or mold in the home you would like to purchase, and how existing asbestos-containing materials or mold could impact the cost of renovations, or restoration, an asbestos building inspection and/or fungal assessment may be useful tools.


Are home test kits valid?


If instructions are followed and samples collected correctly, home test kits for asbestos, lead, and meth samples can provide useful scientific results. However, most of these tests do not adhere strictly to state and federal regulations for sampling protocols, sensitivity, or reliability. It is recommended to have tests performed by certified and experienced environmental consultants to ensure accuracy and compliance and avoid repetition and additional costs.


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What is an Industrial Hygienist?


An Industrial Hygienist is an environmental professional who uses scientific environmental monitoring and analytical methods and procedures to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control hazardous conditions in the workplace, home, and public. These hazards may be chemical, biological, or physical in nature. An Industrial Hygienist attempts to determine exposure levels to hazardous conditions and to implement engineering controls, work practices, and abatement and mitigation strategies to decrease chances for exposure.


Do you always take samples when you go on-site for a job?


No. We offer visual inspection, survey, and review services as well. It is not always necessary to collect samples to assess the presence of hazardous materials, to implement controls and procedures, or to review scope of work progress and potentially overlooked hazards. However, we must abide by regulations and will collect samples when the situation requires.


I'm very confused about all of the steps I need to take, and who I need to hire to do work. Can you help so I don't get in trouble with the State or OSHA?


Yes. We provide consulting and project management and design services upon request. We are your partners in every step of the process to ensure you hire the right professionals and abide by necessary regulations. We take prudent precautions to prevent exposure to hazardous materials and situations and strive to get your job done efficiently and effectively. We also work closely with other contractors you've hired to keep everyone connected and the job running as smoothly as possible.


Do you offer documents proving that my abatement or remediation job was adequately performed according to all regulations?


Yes. Written reports are provided to our customers for every job we perform. Our reports detail the job procedures, regulations followed, results of samples collected, any issues encountered, equipment used, lab accreditations, certifications, and the context in which each job is completed.


Why should I hire you?


KEMWest has been serving the environmental needs of partners for over 20 years. Our staff consists of Certified Industrial Hygienists, chemists, biologists, certified asbestos Air Monitoring Specialists (AMS), supervisors, building inspectors, project designers, project managers, lead inspectors and risk assessors, and OSHA 40 hour HazMat trained personnel. We have extensive expertise in industrial hygiene and knowledge in working with a wide range of environmental conditions and hazards in air, water, soil, and buildings. We will partner with you to solve your environmental issues safely and effectively.


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