Finding asbestos within the home is a dreaded event for most homeowners, but asbestos removal isn't as cut-and-dried as it may seem. Asbestos has been linked to asbestosis and mesothelioma, lung diseases caused by breathing in asbestos fibers. Asbestosis irritates and scars the lung tissues, while the more dangerous mesothelioma causes a type of cancer that is often fatal.
Hiring an asbestos abatement company is the safest, easiest method of removing asbestos from your house.
Abatement companies are equipped with both the experience of working with asbestos and with specialized tools and materials. Yet many homeowners, in an effort to cut costs, wonder if do-it-yourself asbestos removal is not just possible but legal.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), currently, there are no federal regulations that ban a homeowner from removing asbestos from his or her own residence. However, the EPA strongly recommends that you hire a professional to remove the asbestos. While the EPA advises you to find an accredited abatement professional, it also states that "federal law does not require persons who inspect, repair or remove asbestos-containing materials in detached single-family homes to be trained and accredited."
States, counties, and cities may have different regulations about self-removal of asbestos by a homeowner.
In some places, several agencies may regulate asbestos removal. For example, in the Seattle, Washington metro area, a homeowner is required to obtain a conventional demolition permit as well as a permit from the Puget Sound Air Pollution Control Agency before starting demolition work in areas with asbestos-containing materials.
Due to this patchwork of regulations, it is impossible to generalize about the legality of self-removal across all areas. Therefore, the best source for information on requirements in your area is the local building department or health department. In many communities, homeowners are legally allowed to remove asbestos by themselves, with a few restrictions:
The best thing to do with asbestos is to leave it alone. Undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally do not present a health hazard, provided the materials are in good condition and are not crumbling, flaking, or otherwise deteriorating. Here are some of the most places where you might find asbestos in your home: