Asbestos search / removal / recycling techniques in building/housing construction/demolition works


Asbestos has been widely used in public and private constructions, but now that its dangers has been proven, its usage is forbidden in many countries. I know that in France, special care should be applied in demolition work of building/housing, and removal has to be documented. I was wondering:

  1. if any country was still using asbestos in building/housing construction
  2. if current asbestos search / removal / recycling techniques were satisfying and
  3. if it would be worth investing in new techniques/technologies (or considering its not used anymore, and removal has already started some years ago, the market will completely disappear soon).

Thanks for sharing your knowledge on the topic.

Environmental Compliance
Environmental Policy
Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Engineering
Asbestos Removal
Asbestos Management
Asbestos Inspections
Recycling Technologies
Building Construction
Building Demolition
construction demolition
Waste Management
Christine Yolin
30 months ago

3 answers


Asbestos is not banned in the United States?

For many, the news comes as a complete shock.

The countless industrial uses of asbestos were well-known for more than a century, and the material was incorporated into hundreds of household products. From shipyards to factories, everywhere you looked there was a practical use for asbestos.
Then people started to get sick.
It started with miners, followed by factory workers. Unknowingly, asbestos workers were bringing toxic fibers home with them on their clothes. Also unaware of the dangers of asbestos, many consumers fell ill from exposures to asbestos-containing products.
And they kept getting sick.
We now know for certain that all forms of asbestos can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and other chronic respiratory conditions.
It wasn’t until the early 1970s, however, that government agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were created to limit exposures to asbestos and other toxic pollutants.
In 1973, under the EPA’s Clean Air Act, most spray-applied asbestos products were banned for fireproofing and insulating purposes. And in 1989, the EPA issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, which hoped to impose a full ban on the manufacturing, importation, processing and sale of asbestos-containing products.
Unfortunately, in 1991, asbestos industry supporters challenged and overturned the ban in a landmark lawsuit: Corrosion Proof Fittings v. the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the case resulted in several small victories for asbestos regulation, the EPA ultimately failed to put an end to asbestos use.

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Why Did the Asbestos Ban Fail?

Under the authority of the EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a complete ban on asbestos was possible. But the TSCA and Congress required the EPA to use the “least burdensome” means to achieve its goal. According to petitioners of the ban, asbestos regulation is a far less burdensome option than a partial or complete ban.
And while many passionately believed that a complete ban would save countless lives, Congress firmly opposed the EPA’s plan to reduce workplace asbestos risk at any cost. In turn, the EPA had to produce a comparison of each potential solution’s cost and benefit to justify the ban.
This raised some complex questions, such as:

  • How do you accurately quantify something like the risks imposed on someone’s health?
  • Though cost effective, is the addition of warning labels to asbestos products a sufficient protective measure?
  • Are asbestos substitutes just as harmful?
  • Do the benefits of using asbestos as a fire retardant outweigh the risks?
  • How many lives can asbestos save by preventing fires or making safer brakes for automobiles?

Although the EPA claimed an asbestos ban would lead to the development of cost-effective asbestos substitutes, the Agency failed to prove that it chose the least burdensome approach. Petitioners argued that many asbestos substitutes are equally dangerous, and the EPA may inadvertently increase occupational risk by failing to include substitutes in its cost analysis.
The court ordered the EPA to consider the economic impact of both sides of the ban, but it proved challenging to place numbers or dollar figures on some crucial aspects of the case. For instance, the EPA cost analysis only calculated the number of potential lives saved over the next 13 years, considering any lives saved after 2000 to be “unquantified benefits.”
According to the court, this decision lessened the value of the analysis, making “any meaningful judicial review impossible.” This hurt the EPA’s case, and Congress decided it was unreasonable to side with a full ban.

So What Was Accomplished?

Even with the EPA’s failure, six categories of asbestos-containing products remained banned:

  • Corrugated paper
  • Rollboard
  • Commercial paper
  • Specialty paper
  • Flooring felt
  • New uses of asbestos

Banning all new uses of asbestos effectively halted efforts to repurpose the material for more applications. Further, this encouraged the development of new substitute products that could one day replace our need for asbestos.

In the end, numerous asbestos-containing products remained on the market to harm consumers. Among them are various construction materials, automotive products like gaskets and brake pads and asbestos clothing such as aprons, gloves and welder’s blankets. Currently, uses accounting for the greatest consumption of asbestos in the United States include roofing products (60 percent) and the production of chlorine and lye (35 percent).

What You Can Do

Write to your elected officials urging them to ban products that contain asbestos and increase funding for mesothelioma research. We have a short video that explains how you can do that on the Mesothelioma Center YouTube Channel. If you need help drafting your letter, feel free to contact us on Facebook.
Right now, progress towards an asbestos ban is being made in the state of Washington. Under the Better Brakes Law, passed in 2010, all brake pads and shoes are required to be asbestos-free by January 1, 2015. A similar measure recently passed in California. Consider these successes as examples of how much the mesothelioma community can achieve. It all starts with one voice; let others know that you support an absolute ban on asbestos.

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
30 months ago

Asbestos abatement (removal of asbestos) has become a thriving industry in the United States. Strict removal and disposal laws have been enacted to protect the public from airborne asbestos.[41] The Clean Air Act requires that asbestos be wetted during removal and strictly contained, and that workers wear safety gear and masks. The federal government has prosecuted dozens of violations of the act and violations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) related to the operations. Often these involve contractors who hire undocumented workers without proper training or protection to illegally remove asbestos.[42]
W. R. Grace and Company faces fines of up to $280 million for polluting the town of Libby, Montana. Libby was declared a Superfund disaster area in 2002, and the EPA has spent $54 million in cleanup. Grace was ordered by a court to reimburse the EPA for cleanup costs, but the bankruptcy court must approve any payments

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
30 months ago

China is a large user of asbestos though it is strictly controlled in Hong Kong. Asbestos is banned from use in the EU, since 2005, though Chrysotile use is still permitted.

Glenn Frommer
30 months ago

Have some input?