As­bestos tape can be cov­ered, left alone

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - ARI M8R8NTZ

QUES­TION: I have just dis­cov­ered we have as­bestos tape on our heat­ing-pipe joints in an area where the ceil­ing is open. There are about 30 pieces of tape. Can I just tape over them with duct tape? What is the best way to han­dle this? If I hire a com­pany to deal with this, can you rec­om­mend any re­li­able com­pa­nies? Thanks, John Carey

AN­SWER: As­bestos in com­mon build­ing prod­ucts has been a con­cern for sev­eral decades, es­pe­cially when ren­o­va­tions or age de­te­ri­o­ra­tion oc­cur. But health haz­ards usu­ally only arise when the fi­bres be­come air­borne, so as­bestoscon­tain­ing ma­te­ri­als on your heat­ing ducts should be a con­cern only if they are worn. For­tu­nately, you can prob­a­bly deal with old tape on a few heat­ing ducts in your base­ment in a cost-ef­fec­tive man­ner with­out pro­fes­sional help.

As­bestos is a very fi­brous ma­te­rial that has been used in count­less prod­ucts for decades be­cause of its strength and fire re­sis­tance. Be­cause it will not burn, it can be em­bed­ded in ce­ment, wood fi­bre, vinyl and other build­ing ma­te­ri­als to im­prove re­sis­tant to fire.

Un­for­tu­nately, the nat­u­ral con­fig­u­ra­tion of the tiny as­bestos fi­bres means they can be­come eas­ily em­bed­ded in hu­man tis­sue if in­haled. These fi­bres may re­main in the body for many years and have been linked to sev­eral se­ri­ous ill­nesses, in­clud­ing can­cer. Be­cause of this, ef­forts should be made to avoid any ex­po­sure to as­bestos, and prod­ucts con­tain­ing as­bestos have been re­moved from thou­sands of build­ings.

There’s prob­a­bly lit­tle rea­son for con­cern with the small amount of as­bestos-con­tain­ing duct tape seen in your home. The small amount of as­bestos fi­bres con­tained in the tape do not nor­mally dis­lodge un­less the ma­te­rial be­comes worn or dam­aged. Still, with any ma­te­rial known to con­tain as­bestos, care should be taken, re­gard­less of how min­i­mal the health risk may be.

If the ma­te­rial is in­tact and not torn or loose, leav­ing it alone or en­cap­su­lat­ing it is prob­a­bly the best op­tion. But if the tape is loose and hang­ing from the ducts or ends are torn or frayed, then re­moval is rec­om­mended. When this type of tape de­te­ri­o­rates, the as­bestos fi­bres have a much higher chance to be­come fri­able and air­borne.

Be­cause this tape is ac­ces­si­ble, you may wish to try en­cap­su­la­tion. This means seal­ing the ex­posed sur­face of the as­bestos-con­tain­ing ma­te­rial to pre­vent de­te­ri­o­ra­tion and elim­i­nate the chance of fri­abil­ity. This is of­ten done by spray-paint­ing the sur­face of the ma­te­rial, coat­ing it with a thin layer of plas­ter and can­vas, or other meth­ods.

One method that is nor­mally within the skill-set of many home­own­ers is to cover it with duct tape, as you’ve sug­gested. I nor­mally rec­om­mend self­ad­he­sive alu­minum duct tape for this pur­pose, as it tends to ad­here bet­ter and longer than tra­di­tional vinyl or cloth duct tape.

Be­fore start­ing any en­cap­su­la­tion or re­moval of this haz­ardous ma­te­rial, proper safety pre­cau­tions, es­pe­cially breath­ing pro­tec­tion, are es­sen­tial. Buy­ing or rent­ing a res­pi­ra­tor ap­proved for as­bestos is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary be­fore do­ing any­thing.

The area to be re­me­di­ated also should be iso­lated and sealed with poly­eth­yl­ene sheath­ing to trap any fi­bres that may be­come loose dur­ing en­cap­su­la­tion or re­moval. This will also make it eas­ier to clean up the area, pre­vent­ing con­tam­i­na­tion of other parts of the home.

Cov­er­ing your head and body com­pletely, of­ten with dis­pos­able cov­er­alls, is also nec­es­sary to pre­vent loose fi­bres from leav­ing the area and spread­ing throughout the home. If por­tions of the tape are re­moved, they should be col­lected and sealed in a dou­bled-up plas­tic garbage bag, and taken to a haz­ardous-waste col­lec­tions site for proper dis­posal.

As re­luc­tant as I am to rec­om­mend that home­own­ers can deal with po­ten­tially haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als per­son­ally, the small amount of duct tape in your home may fall into that cat­e­gory. There are sev­eral highly com­pe­tent en­vi­ron­men­tal com­pa­nies in our area that are spe­cially trained to deal with these types of haz­ards, but costs for proper pro­fes­sional re­moval may be pro­hib­i­tive.

Still, if you don’t be­lieve you have the skills or will to deal with this your­self, con­tact­ing a cer­ti­fied as­bestos re­moval con­trac­tor for en­cap­su­la­tion or elim­i­na­tion is the next step. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the Pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors-Man­i­toba (www.cahpi.mb.ca). Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at (204) 291-5358 or check out his web­site

at www.trained­eye.ca.

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