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When should asbestos be removed from a building?

Asbestos is a notoriously dangerous substance. For decades, it was used without caution or regulation before the devastating effects of exposure were known. Even after the risks were known, asbestos exposure was a huge problem for many people working or living in environments where asbestos was used thanks to poor oversight and noncompliance with safety requirements.

Today, however, people generally understand that asbestos is dangerous and should only be handled with proper protection and by specialists certified in removal. But one question that many people have is when -- or even if -- asbestos should be removed from a building.

Generally speaking, asbestos should only be removed if and when it has or will be disturbed. Intact, products containing asbestos can be relatively safe and the risks of illnesses caused by exposure are low. 

However, whenever a construction project involves demolishing, rebuilding or adding on to any structure that contains asbestos, it can be critical for property owners to have the building assessed and inspected for asbestos. If there is asbestos present that could get disturbed and released into the air, having it removed properly and professionally is the best way to keep workers and tenants safe from exposure.

Unfortunately, not every property owner and abatement company takes this obligation seriously. They hire workers to remove asbestos without certification and without the proper protective gear because this can save some money. The fact is that cutting corners and violating safety regulations can save a few bucks, but the cost of doing so can be extraordinarily high in terms of penalties, fines and -- most importantly -- the damage to other people's health.

Source: Wausau Daily Herald, "Sometimes it's better to leave asbestos alone," Nov. 20, 2014

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