The ducts in your building allow you to regulate the temperature and air quality inside your workplace. However, ductwork in older buildings can sometimes come with the risk of asbestos, which you should always consider seriously. Asbestos can be a significant health risk for humans due to extended exposure, and many public facilities are required by law to remove it from their premises entirely. If you want to avoid health risks or potential liability in your business, it is best to deal with asbestos ducts the moment you discover them.
Why are Asbestos Ducts Such a Problem?
One of the first questions we hear from most business owners who discover asbestos ducts in their buildings is: “why should I be concerned?” To answer this question, it is necessary to delve into the numerous health problems asbestos can cause. The following are a few of the most common risks associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos:
- Lung Cancer: asbestos releases small fibers when it is disturbed which make their way into the air where humans in the vicinity easily inhale them. Asbestos fibers are a known carcinogenic, so when enough of them settle in the lungs, they can pose a significant lung cancer risk. Asbestos poses a low cancer risk if it is bonded in asbestos-cement sheeting, but loose or damaged asbestos can be much more dangerous. Since symptoms often do not make themselves apparent until years after exposure, asbestos can cause damage for a long time before anyone is aware of the problem.
- Mesothelioma: mesothelioma is another form of cancer that exposure to asbestos can cause. It is considerably less common than lung cancer, but it is also extremely aggressive. It forms on the tissues that cover the lungs, abdomen, and heart.
- Asbestosis: Asbestosis is a degenerative lung disease caused when asbestos fibers create scarring on the linings of the lungs. While not as immediately dangerous as either of the two conditions listed above, it can be very painful and herald the onset of mesothelioma.
While it can take a long time for any of these symptoms to occur in humans who are near asbestos, the EPA has stated definitively that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. As such, business owners should do everything in their power to ensure that any asbestos they discover in their buildings is treated and/or removed as soon as possible.
What are the Chances that Asbestos Ducts Exist in Your Building?
Some business owners may assume that asbestos ducts are rare, and therefore unlikely to be a problem in their facilities. However, the truth is that asbestos was a prevalent material throughout much of the 20th century, and large quantities of it remain unaccounted for across the United States. One of the most popular uses for asbestos has been in the creation of fire-retardant insulation. Asbestos is extraordinarily resistant to fire, which made it a favorite commercial building material for decades. As such, asbestos-wrapped ductwork is standard in commercial buildings, especially older ones. If your business is in a facility that is older than a decade or so, it’s entirely possible that you may have asbestos ducts. Even if your business is in a newer building, it is best to err on the side of caution and have the ducts checked for asbestos by a licensed professional.
What to Do About Asbestos Ducts in Your Business
If you have reason to suspect that asbestos ducts may be present in or near your workplace, it is imperative that you call a licensed professional who can repair or remove it. Contact an HVAC service that is duly qualified to seal in or remove asbestos from your property so that it will no longer pose a health risk to anyone in the space. Whether you choose to repair or remove the asbestos will depend on several factors, outlined below:
- Repairing asbestos is accomplished by bonding it with asbestos-cement sheeting. Bonding (or sealing) asbestos keeps loose fibers from detaching and entering the air where nearby people can inhale them. Repairing asbestos is less expensive than removing it entirely.
- Removing asbestos will ensure that your business is truly free from asbestos and will eliminate the risk of any health problems occurring. It is a more expensive solution, but comprehensive.
Always ensure that you entrust the removal of your asbestos ducts to a licensed professional who has experience in such matters. The risks associated with asbestos exposure are too significant to take chances by hiring anyone who is unfamiliar with this material and how to handle it safely.