Asbestos Roofing & Siding - Is It Dangerous & Should It Be Removed?
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Asbestos Roofing

Published by Andrew Schmidt

Since the 1980s, the use of asbestos in roofing and siding materials has rapidly declined. Asbestos fibers were added to strengthen roofing and siding materials, as well as increase their durability and provide insulation and fireproofing.

The following roofing and siding products may contain asbestos:

Roofing: Asphalt roofing felt, asphalt roofing shingles, cement roofing shingles, roof underlayment, sealants, flashing

Siding: Wood shake vapor barriers, cement-asbestos board siding, slate siding, mastics, adhesives, paint

Do I need to remove asbestos roofing and siding?

No – having asbestos roofing or siding on your home does not pose a health hazard, if the roofing or siding is in good condition it is best to leave it alone. If the roofing or siding is damaged, it should be carefully repaired. Sometimes roofing and siding containing asbestos can be covered with new materials, which should be stated in local building codes.

Is working with asbestos roofing and siding dangerous?

As long as it is in good condition, asphalt or cement roofing or siding that contain asbestos are generally considered not hazardous. Paper-like vapor barriers can present more of a hazard, since they are friable (easily damaged by hand pressure).

Heat, water, weathering and other types of aging can weaken nonfriable siding and roofing to the point of being friable. Friable materials can release asbestos fibers into the air, so avoid breaking, sanding, cutting, drilling and sawing materials containing asbestos. Once asbestos are airborne, the fibers can be inhaled into the lungs where they may cause severe lung diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

How should asbestos roofing and siding be removed?

It is recommended that you use a licensed asbestos contractor when removing asbestos materials from a home, but if you decide to do your own removal, it is important to do the following:

  • Place plastic drop cloths around the house to collect any debris.
  • Keep others away from the area.
  • Make sure you do not track the material into your house.
  • Protect yourself by wearing a respirator with P100 cartridge filters. Do not use dust masks. Read the instructions for proper use. Check with your doctor prior to using the mask to be sure you are medically able to wear it.
  • Wear disposable coveralls or old clothing that can be disposed of after the work is complete.
  • Wet the materials down before beginning removal and keep wetting during the removal process.
  • Avoid breaking up the roofing or siding. Work slowly to keep breakage to a minimum.
  • Lower the materials to the ground rather than dropping or throwing them.
  • Place all waste and contaminated items in leak-tight bags.
  • Wash off all tools used.
  • Thoroughly wash any exposed skin.
  • Discard any clothing worn during the work.
  • Disposal of waste – check with local waste hauler to see if they will dispose the material. If they do not accept asbestos waste, you will have to transport it to an approved landfill yourself. You can find asbestos-approved Illinois landfills on the EPA website.

If you would like to find out more information, take a look at the asbestos page of the Illinois Department of Health.



Courtesy of The Minnesota Department of Health

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