Asbestos can be found in a number of building materials and since it has serious health implications there are strict rules on how to handle construction debris.
Common building materials that contain asbestos include vermiculite insulation, floor tiles, roofing, caulks, window glaze, duct wrap and pipe insulation. What is less known is that asbestos can be found in concrete, cinder blocks, and concrete sealants.
Asbestos is essentially harmless when embedded in an intact surface or structure. But repair, remove or modify an asbestos-impregnated concrete structure by cutting into or crushing it, and it no longer is harmless. These activities may release asbestos fibers into the air. The same is true about asbestos-containing glues and sealants used in concrete work. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can trigger severe illness, including cancer and a lung condition called asbestosis.
It is important for those involved in renovation, demolition, or crushing projects to understand how to handle these concrete products safely, says Craig Dechy of EGLE’s Asbestos Program.
"The only way to make sure that concrete or surface sealants do not contain asbestos is to subject it to professional testing," Dechy said. "A thorough inspection may need to be done prior any renovation or demolition work that would disturb these materials.
EGLE's Air Quality Division staff issues permits to concrete crushing operations – where much of the concrete from demolition projects ends up. The concrete is crushed and reused for road and other projects. EGLE AQD staff also conduct inspections of crushing operations to assure operations are controlling dust and not crushing materials containing asbestos.
Concrete crushers should verify concrete as asbestos free prior to crushing, Dechy said. Additionally, crushers should inspect concrete for potential signs of asbestos. Concrete slabs and cinder blocks should be inspected for suspect materials such as mastics, water sealants, and hard coatings. This material can generally be collected safely for testing by certified professionals.
If suspect material is found, it should not be crushed until testing determines it is safe to do so. If concrete or cinder block is found to contain asbestos, the material should be segregated and properly handled and disposed of at a landfill licensed to accept asbestos containing materials.
Visit EGLE's asbestos website for more information.