A Home Owners list of Frequently Asked Questions for Asbestos

Did you want the Contractors FAQ?

I may have some asbestos in my home, how do I test for it?

In California and many other states you must hire a Licensed or Certified Asbestos Consultant to do the test. In California, Nevada and many other states it is illegal for a Licensed Contractor to collect samples or test for asbestos. California Business and Professions Code specifically states 7180(e). No licensed contractor or asbestos abatement contractor may provide professional health and safety services or perform any asbestos risk assessment. Only a licensed California Asbestos Consultant (CAC) or a Certified Site Surveillance Technician (CSST) working under the direction of a CAC can collect asbestos samples or as the law says perform any asbestos risk assessment. There is an exception, if a contractor has completed the AHERA/ASHARA Building Inspector Course and has taken the annual refreshers the contractor can collect up to ten samples as long as they do not disclose to anyone what the results were. So if a contractor wants to collect samples they should not tell you what they found. It is against the law for the contractor to charge you for the testing. If you are worried about paying a professional to test, you should realize that the CAC does not have a financial interest in finding asbestos and is impartial. If the Contractor brings in a CAC or CSST, I would be a little skeptical about the relationship.  Find the CAC on your own, you will then be pretty certain that you are not looking at a conflict of interest. The Contractor on the other hand needs to find asbestos so that he can make some money by removing it.

I still want to find out if the ceiling or flooring in my home has asbestos, but I do not want to hire anybody, how can I find out?

I do not recommend that you do your own testing. The EPA approved Building Inspector Course takes three days.  If you went to a Doctor and asked how you could do your own blood test, it would be the same sort of idea. That being said, You can collect the sample yourself and send it to a laboratory that is qualified to test for asbestos. Be very careful to not disturb the ceiling or flooring. Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean up, use a damp paper towel and put it in a plastic Ziploc bag, then put it in the trash. Lastly, remember my Dad’s advice “A stingy person always pays more”.  Do not do it yourself, hire a professional!

I found out that my neighbors had asbestos in their ceiling, should I just assume mine is the same?

You should test your ceiling anyway. What is in the neighbors may or may not mean anything. If you have a Condo or homes that were built at the same time by the same builder, perhaps there could be a trend. Asbestos is dangerous enough so that it is worth the peace of mind to just get it tested by a professional. The right professional is a Certified Industrial Hygienist who has their state asbestos consultant certification, not your friendly asbestos removal contractor. See the first question.

I had my asbestos ceiling removed and the contractor damaged the walls with tape and glue. What should I do?

Thank the Contractor, they did a good job. If the walls do not have some tape damage, the contractor did not do a good job protecting the rest of the house. Expect some superficial damage, you are going to have to re-plaster and repaint anyway.

I do not want to move out when they do the asbestos removal, what can I do?

Take a vacation, get real-- you are being impractical.  It does not make any sense for you to stay or leave your belongings during asbestos mitigation. You will move out, and you will get all your stuff out of the house when they do the removal. Otherwise you risk getting all your stuff contaminated. If you trust the contractor to remove all your furnishings and clothing, you will pay a lot more for the removal. You just might find that some of your furnishing and clothing will disappear or get damaged. When you remove asbestos from your home, it is as if you moved out and then moved in to a new place. There are no easy answers. 

Where do I find a Good Asbestos Removal Contractor in California?

That is difficult, the definition of the lowest bidder is (The guy who is wondering what he forgot to charge for or left out). Use the DOSH database to find a Contractor near you-–You can search by City. If they are not listed by DOSH do not hire them under any circumstances. Then check if they have any OSHA Citations, if they have citations consider other more capable contractors. Be careful about recommendations from exuberant clients, often a removal contractor who is not qualified or very sloppy has a good reputation simply because asbestos contamination is invisible. There have been cases where contractors have dumped asbestos illegally and contaminated the home and front lawn. The homeowner never knew or understood how badly the job was done. Asbestos at dangerous levels is invisible and will remain for long periods of time. There are no immediate effects from asbestos exposure, but it can cause cancer after twenty to thirty years.

Are there any other places that I can find out about asbestos?

Yes, try the EPA Site.  The EPA has a good article written by the American Lung association titled "Asbestos in Your Home".

What about the home asbestos test kits?

IMHO They are a real waste of your money, and dangerous to boot. Have a licensed person conduct the testing.

I am a tenant and my landlord has told me that there may be some asbestos in home I am renting from him, but he has not told me where or provided me with any other information?

Under California Health and Safety Code the building owner is required to provide that information to you, including any and all studies that were conducted to find asbestos material and where the material may be located in the building. The Code is California Health & Safety Code Section 25249.6. Required Warning Before Exposure To Chemicals Known to Cause Cancer Or Reproductive Toxicity. No person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual, except as provided in Section 25249.10. This code is also know as Proposition 65. The property does not qualify for an exemption based on the recent findings of positive asbestos content in the wall components.  Asbestos has some other requirements under CAL. HSC. CODE § 25915 : California Code - Section 25915.  Look at the next FAQ

Recent construction activities have occurred. The contractor was not a licensed contractor, and I am pretty certain that there is asbestos in my building.
What should I do?

Based on the assumption that you have confirmed knowledge that the building material is greater than 0.1 per cent a violation of the code has happened, that violation could have endangered you, your family and friends. Please refer to http://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/341%5F6.html . The code is specific Any employer or contractor engaging in asbestos-related work by disturbing more than 100 square feet of asbestos-containing construction material (greater than 0.1 percent asbestos by weight) during the course of work at a single worksite must be registered. Notify all persons potentially exposed to asbestos, identify the persons who conducted the work or demolition. Notify Both EPA and Cal OSHA that a spill has happened. The cognizant person must accomplish these steps as soon as possible. The Code section is as follows. The CCLA (Penal Code section 387) provides that anyone "who is a manager with respect to a product, facility, equipment, process, place of employment, or business practice" is guilty of a misdemeanor or felony if they: (1) have actual knowledge of a serious concealed danger; and (2) fail to report that danger to the affected employees and the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). Violation of the Act is punishable by up to three years in state prison and a $25,000 fine. This notification should be accomplished by the building owner. Absent proof that notification was made, I strongly recommend that you provide that notification as another cognizant manager.

What do I need to do to find if I have asbestos in the place that I am Renting?

Contact your landlord and obtain form them all required notices tests and reports. The Building should have a public notice posted under this code section. Contact an Attorney who has knowledge in regards to your legal remedies for the landlords failure to notify and the impact of that failure to notify on you and your family.

My Landlord has made me responsible for any Tenant Improvement Work (TI), but he has not provided any information or reports about the asbestos or where it is. What should I do?

You do not have the notification is needed for you to safely conduct any Tenant Improvement work. Under CAL. HSC. CODE § 25915 : California Code - Section 25915 the building owner must disclose certain information. That code is as follows. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the owner of any building constructed prior to 1979, who knows that the building contains asbestos-containing construction materials, shall provide notice to all employees of that owner working within the building concerning all of the following:

(1) The existence of, conclusions from, and a description or list of the contents of, any survey known to the owner conducted to determine the existence and location of asbestos-containing construction materials within the building, and information describing when and where the results of the survey are available pursuant to Section 25917.

(2) Specific locations within the building known to the owner, or identified in a survey known to the owner, where asbestos-containing construction materials are present in any quantity.

(3) General procedures and handling restrictions necessary to prevent, and, if appropriate, to minimize disturbance, release, and exposure to the asbestos. If detailed handling instructions are necessary to ensure employee safety, the notice required by this section shall indicate where those instructions can be found.

(4) A summary of the results of any bulk sample analysis, or air monitoring, or monitoring conducted pursuant to Section 5208 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, conducted for or by the owner or within the owner's control, including reference to sampling and laboratory procedures utilized, and information describing when and where the specific monitoring data and sampling procedures are available pursuant to Section 25917.

(5) Potential health risks or impacts that may result from exposure to the asbestos in the building as identified in surveys or tests referred to in this section, or otherwise known to the owner.

The notice may contain a description and explanation of the health action levels or exposure standards established by the state or federal government. However, if the notice contains this description, the notice shall include, at least, a description and explanation of the no significant risk level established pursuant to Chapter 6.6 (commencing with Section 25249.5) of Division 20, and specified in Section 12711 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations, the school abatement clearance level specified in Section 49410.7 of the Education Code, and the action levels established by state and federal Occupational Safety and Health Act regulations.

The notice requirements specified in this subdivision shall not apply to an owner who elects to prepare an asbestos management plan pursuant to Section 25915.1. In those cases, the notice requirements specified in Section 25915.1 shall apply.

(b) If the owner has no special knowledge of the information required pursuant to paragraphs (3) and (5), of subdivision (a), the owner shall specifically inform his or her employees in the notice required by this section, that he or she lacks knowledge regarding handling instructions necessary to prevent and minimize release of, and exposure to, asbestos and the potential health impacts resulting from exposure to asbestos in the building, and shall encourage employees to contact local or state public health agencies.

You should provide the Building owner with a written demand to comply with the current code and provide all the above information. You should not conduct any TI work until you have all the needed information.

I am a hands on kind of person. Can I just fix this myself?

Well if you own the place and you are the only person there may be a hole in the law that would let you do that. That would be a really bad idea though. The State of California usually takes several months or more to approve a Licensed Contractor. Do you really think you will have all the equipment and have the knowledge that the contractor has after they have taken several weeks of training classes and you have taken none and do not have any of the specialized equipment.  When I remodeled my own home, I hired a licensed DOSH ACRU Contractor to remove the asbestos HVAC Ducts.  I teach the classes, own the equipment and have the expertize, but I still hired a Contractor to do the work.  They do it all the time and they can do it better and they cost less than when you do it yourself.  Ever give yourself a haircut?  Well I rest my case.

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©March 10, 2013