Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in the construction industry because of its heat-resistant and insulating properties. However, it was later discovered that asbestos exposure causes serious health problems, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Despite the known health risks, asbestos is still found in many commercial buildings, particularly those constructed before the 1980s. Let's explore four reasons why asbestos is found in commercial buildings.
One of the main reasons why asbestos is found in commercial buildings is because of its widespread use in construction materials. Asbestos was commonly used in insulation, flooring, roofing, and other building materials because of its heat-resistant and insulating properties. As a result, many older commercial buildings still contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), which releases asbestos fibers into the air if damaged or disturbed.
Another reason why asbestos is found in commercial buildings is because of the lack of regulation and awareness surrounding its use. Before the 1980s, there were no regulations in place to limit or ban the use of asbestos in construction materials. As a result, many buildings constructed before this time contain asbestos. Even after regulations were put in place, some manufacturers continued to use asbestos in their products, leading to continued exposure risks.
Additionally, many commercial buildings were constructed during a time when asbestos was considered a safe and effective material. Asbestos was commonly used in shipbuilding, automotive manufacturing, and other industries because of its durability and insulating properties. As a result, it was also used in commercial construction, particularly in buildings that required high levels of insulation or fire resistance.
Another contributing factor to the presence of asbestos in commercial buildings is the long lifespan of these structures. Many commercial buildings constructed before the 1980s were designed to last for several decades or even a century. Asbestos-containing materials used during construction were intended to provide durability and longevity. However, over time, as the risks associated with asbestos became evident, regulations were put in place to restrict its use. Unfortunately, this means that many older commercial buildings still contain asbestos, as the materials have not been replaced or upgraded.
Despite the known health risks, some building owners may also be hesitant to remove asbestos from their buildings because of the cost and disruption involved. Asbestos removal is expensive, and it requires specialized equipment and trained professionals to safely remove and dispose of ACMs. Additionally, removing asbestos requires the closure of a building or certain areas of a building, which is disruptive to businesses and tenants.
To prevent exposure to asbestos in commercial buildings, it is important to identify and manage ACMs. Building owners and managers should have their buildings inspected for asbestos-containing materials, particularly if the building was constructed before the 1980s. If ACMs are found, they should be managed or removed by trained professionals to prevent exposure. Building owners and managers should also educate their tenants and employees about the risks of asbestos exposure and how to prevent it. This may include training on how to identify and report damaged or deteriorating ACMs, as well as proper procedures for working with or around ACMs.