Basic Overview: Pennsylvania Asbestos Laws
Because of the serious problems imposed by asbestos exposure, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regulates the collection, removal, disposal and transportation of asbestos containing products from all commercial and public buildings in the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection does not regulate the removal of asbestos containing products from private residences unless the dwelling has more than five detached units. In a generic residence, the state of Pennsylvania places the responsibility of collecting, disposing, transporting and removing asbestos materials on the building owner or operator. In these situations it is essential that the owner or operator contact their local authorities to ensure that there are no additional regulations governing the action.
The state of Pennsylvania defines asbestos as a mineral fiber that was often used in construction materials during the 19th and throughout most of the 20th century. Asbestos was commonly applied to construction projects because it was discovered that the material is an excellent insulating material that offers chemically and fire resistant properties. It was later discovered; however, that asbestos fibers, when ingested or inhaled, pose significant health risks to humans. Presently, asbestos is typically found in older homes in the form of a furnace insulation, shingles, piping, floor tiles and/or millboards. Various state organization work with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce stringent regulations on the handling of asbestos materials in an effort to protect the public and workers from the terrible effects associated with asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Health Risks:
Asbestos, when left alone, does not pose a significant risk to human beings. However, when the mineral is disturbed—as is common in renovation, demolition or other construction projects—asbestos fibers, which are invisible to the naked eye, become airborne. When these asbestos fibers are inhaled, they may remain and agglomerate in the lungs, where they can perpetuate the form of mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. The bulk of these diseases will not became observable or apparent for several decades following the patient’s first exposure to asbestos. Many individuals with asbestos related diseases came into contact with asbestos material in high concentrations over an extended period of time through their employment. Other individuals who are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases contract the condition through secondary exposure. Infection may occur after being exposed to fibers and dust that were brought home on clothing from a person’s job site.
The risk of developing malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer increases as the amount of fibers inhaled increases. The risk of asbestos-related diseases, such as lung cancer, also increases if the patient is a smoker. The majority of individuals who are exposed to asbestos materials will not develop mesothelioma or symptoms of asbestos until decades after their initial exposure. The slow-developing nature of asbestos-related diseases perpetuates a series of problems, which drastically decrease the patient’s life prognosis. Mesothelioma and lung cancer, during its early stages, is operable. It is not until the disease proliferates where it is regarded as inoperable. Unfortunately, proliferation to remote areas of the body often occurs before the disease is properly diagnosed.
What are Some Specific Pennsylvania Asbestos Laws?
Pennsylvania asbestos laws are instituted to promote safe living and working environments in the state. Specifically, the Department of Labor and Industry in the state is held responsible for the enforcement of the Pennsylvania Asbestos Occupations Accreditation and Certification Act. This particular piece of legislation requires that individuals planning to partake in an asbestos abatement project must notify the state (through the department) at least five days before the work starts. Notification is required in the project plans along with certification of all workers involved with the project.
The state of Pennsylvania’s asbestos program includes state and federal guidelines for the purpose of protecting the population from accidental exposure to excessive amounts of airborne asbestos fibers.
If asbestos containing products are regarded as friable the DEP mandates that it be extracted prior to renovation or demolition. Friable asbestos refers to any asbestos containing materials that is likely to release fibers through normal handling. Therefore, any material that may be disturbed, reduced or broken to powder through normal hand pressure is deemed as friable in the state of Pennsylvania. Friable asbestos products are subject to regulations concerning abatement and handling.
Non-friable asbestos, according to Pennsylvania asbestos law, is any asbestos material that is not likely to chip or become airborne through normal handling. This simply means that the material cannot be reduced to powder by normal hand pressure. Pennsylvania imposes regulations for all asbestos materials, including all friable materials and non-friable materials that are susceptible to chipping after water damage, deterioration, age or heat. Non-friable asbestos materials may also become airborne if they are subjected to cutting, grinding, sanding, abrading and/or drilling.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has consumed the federal EPA’s regulations as set for in the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants. These asbestos laws require that notification of the Environmental Protection Agency take place at least ten days prior to the onset of any abatement project in a commercial or public building. These regulations also require that only certified asbestos workers, conduct asbestos inspections, supervise workers, and in general, handle asbestos-containing materials. The state’s Asbestos Occupations Accreditation and Certification Act mandates that the state government be notified at least a week before starting an abatement project and that local law enforcement agencies be contacted to investigate and determine that no additional regulations are applied to the project.
In the state of Pennsylvania, it is required that no person who has not received certification, be permitted to handle or remove asbestos containing materials. Supervisors, project designers, workers, management planners, contractors and inspectors are required to undergo certification training before removing or handling asbestos containing products. Moreover, proper notification must be delivered to state and local agencies, as well as the federal government, before an abatement project commences.
Before starting an abatement project, the commercial or public building in question must be inspected for asbestos containing materials. If the amount of asbestos is in excess of 260 linear feet, 35 cubic feet or 160 square feet, the project will fall under NESHAP regulations for asbestos abatement projects. These notifications must be delivered on the proper forms to the Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA, along with any county agencies and local police forces.
What to do if Asbestos is in Your Home:
The state of Pennsylvania provides stringent regulations for asbestos containing materials within residential properties. If asbestos materials are suspected to be present on or in the property, the owner of the dwelling is encourages d to the have the areas inspected by a certified professional. In most cases, asbestos in a residential home is not dangerous if it is unlikely to be disturbed. It is important; however, to evaluate all materials in the home for regular deterioration. Homeowners, regardless of the amount of asbestos in the dwelling, should avoid ripping, cutting or sanding asbestos containing materials, for these actions can promote the transformation of non-friable asbestos to friable, dangerous and airborne asbestos.
If asbestos materials are found in your home and they are determined to be friable, the owner should not remove it without contacting a professional. Self-removal will invariably lead to complications and hazardous occurrences. A professional asbestos contractor must be consulted, after careful inspection of the individual’s credentials. Property owners are encouraged to examine all available options of enclosure or encapsulations as a substitute to the more expensive abatement process.