Hazardous Material Concerns After a Disaster

Unfortunately thousands of disasters, whether large or small in scale, occur every day and homeowners, business owners, and property managers are forced to face unfamiliar territory, making decisions that can greatly affect the livelihood or wellbeing of others.  Some of the decisions that disaster survivors are faced with involve topics that restoration contractors face on a day to day basis, but may be issues that are completely foreign to most other people.  One such issue is the presence of hazardous materials.  Often times when disasters occur, hazardous materials like asbestos or lead based paint can become disturbed or cause contamination.   If this occurs, steps must be taken to contain and abate the affected areas in order to ensure the health and safety of occupants as well as the environment.  Below are a few hot points to be focused on should you ever be faced with a natural disaster where hazardous materials may be affected:

First – the age of your home is a good indicator of the likelihood of the presence of hazardous building materials – any home built prior to 1990 may have suspect lead, and/or asbestos materials present.  With that in mind the first course of action, would be to have an independent  certified asbestos consultant come out and perform an asbestos and/or lead survey to identify the presence of hazardous building materials.  The consultant will take representative samples of building materials such as drywall, plaster, vinyl or linoleum flooring, paint, popcorn ceilings, roofing materials, exterior siding, stucco, etc.  Then the samples will  be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed at which time they will determine if any hazardous levels of asbestos or lead may be present.  If you have insurance coverage, the fee for testing can usually be billed directly to your insurance carrier.

If hazardous materials are discovered and need to be removed, you will want to make sure the environmental abatement contractor you select has the proper licensing,  insurance, and  a DOSH (Division of Occupational Safety and Health) license.  The importance of these documents  certifies that the abatement contractor is capable of handling both the removal of the hazardous materials as well as the transport and disposal.

It can be very helpful to involve a licensed environmental abatement contractor to coordinate the testing consultant and work with your insurance company as well as answer any of your environmental issues from the very  beginning  Once results on the testing have been retained by your environmental contractor they are provided to both you and your insurance company.  At that point, an abatement estimate can be prepared for you and  your insurance company that will illustrate the specific costs associated with the handling and disposal of the material.

You can log on to  Environmental Protection Agency or  Division of Occupational Safety and Health for specifics on the regulations in your area.