Thursday, January 1, 2015

Asbestos, The Great Greensboro Lie

A lot of noise has been made by the Greensboro City Council in recent years about the dangers of asbestos and the need for its removal but it wasn't until I began looking into the story of Bulent Bediz that I began to understand how the City of Greensboro has overblown asbestos dangers completely out of hand.

When I trained and certified to operate landfills and solid waste transfer stations in classes taught by City of Greensboro landfill managers and transfer station managers who currently operate the city owned Construction and Demolition facility on White Street and the City of Greensboro mixed solid waste Transfer Station on Burnt Poplar Road, we were taught that asbestos was not considered hazardous unless it was friable and that non friable asbestos could safely go directly into landfills such as Greensboro's White Street Landfill. Classes were in Asheville and Wilmington.

The problem with asbestos is that when it becomes friable-- broken into tiny particles-- it can be breathed into your lungs causing health concerns, cancer and possibly death in the long term.  But asbestos usually isn't anything to worry about. From the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission:

"Even if asbestos is in your home, this is usually NOT a serious problem. The mere presence of asbestos in a home or a building is not hazardous. The danger is that asbestos materials may become damaged over time. Damaged asbestos may release asbestos fibers and become a health hazard.
THE BEST THING TO DO WITH ASBESTOS MATERIAL IN GOOD CONDITION IS TO LEAVE IT ALONE!  Disturbing it may create a health hazard where none existed before. Read this before you have any asbestos material inspected, removed, or repaired."

So why is the City of Greensboro so concerned about non friable asbestos in homes belonging to Bulent Bediz and others when the US Consumer Product Safety Commission clearly states asbestos is best left alone?

Why is Greensboro Mayor Nancy Barakat Vaughan calling Bulent Bediz the Cancer of Glenwood?

Thousands of homes across Greensboro today are still standing, covered in asbestos shingles. They can be found in Greensboro neighborhoods everywhere. Here's two belonging to a neighbors of mine. I'm willing to bet most people don't even know asbestos when they see it. Asbestos was popular as floor tiles, siding and roofing material from the 1930s until the 1970s because it was as durable as brick, fireproof and easy to install. And while asbestos shingles can be painted they never need painting-- ever. That is: unless they've been painted before.

I sometimes wish we still had asbestos siding on our home as it's a far better material than the vinyl siding we have today.

So what if there's asbestos in or on your house and you're worried that it might become friable? The worst thing you can do is tear it out. As a matter of fact, Global Encasement and dozens of other companies offer products to seal and encase asbestos.

How good are these products? Global Encasement's products were chosen to be used in the clean-up of the nuclear reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan. after the earthquake and tsunami there. I'm sure other manufacturers have products of equal quality.

And just so you know, lead based paints can be safely handled in the same way. Like I wrote above, Global Encasement is not the only company selling such products. As a matter of fact, a common technique used by some asbestos and lead abatement contractors is to first seal the material with a comparable product, allow it to dry, then remove it entirely. In that way they are able to safely remove it and send it to regular landfills rather than paying much higher prices for hazardous waste disposal.

But of course that isn't reflected in the bill.