I got a letter from Ann Marie Gallant today, responding to my certified letter demanding an asbestos clean-up of our fair city. She assured me that the city had taken its time responding only to make sure they weren’t giving us bad information. To that end, the city “consulted with representatives from various regulatory agencies in addition to its own environmental expert regarding environmental conditions at Alameda Point and FISC.” All this was necessary before they could post info on their website. Fair enough. She wanted me to know if I wasn’t comfortable with the disposal instructions the city provided, I could call them and have them come and get the debris on my property. Kind of her to reach out.
Except, it rather misses my point, which is this:
1. Fire disturbs the building material that contains asbestos, and frees it to float in the air and travel for hours after all the other dust and debris has settled. Fire makes non-friable asbestos friable, and sets it in motion, where it can give and give, for years.
2. The sample from Denise’s yard that contains 10% asbestos in non-friable form isn’t proof that all is hunky-dory, it’s an indication that what burned had asbestos that was released into the air and traveled for miles.
I’m not making this up. Here’s a quote from asbestos.com
“When non-friable asbestos becomes friable, it is not the asbestos itself that crumbles, but the building materials in which it was used. As clay or other minerals age and wear, they break down and release the more-durable asbestos fibers. Burning any ACM, such as wallboard, asbestos papers, or ceiling tiles also releases asbestos fibers and changes the classification to friable and regulated. “
I’m going to make this extremely simple for our friends at city hall: The roof contained asbestos. It burned, and for 19 hours. As it burned, the asbestos in the roofing material was freed to travel freely and insinuate itself everywhere.
Asbestos can’t be destroyed. Every time there is dust kicked up, you get another hit.
Below is the entire section from asbestos.com:
Friable vs. Non-Friable Asbestos or Asbestos-Containing Material (ACM)
The legal definitions of “friable” and “non-friable” asbestos clearly depicts the differences between dangerous and safe asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).
* Friable ACM is any material that contains more than one percent asbestos by weight or area, depending on whether it is a bulk or sheet material and can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by the pressure of an ordinary human hand.
* Non-friable ACM is any material that contains more than one percent asbestos, but cannot be pulverized under hand pressure.
Materials are slightly more confusing within the classification of non-friable ACM:
* Category I non-friable includes asbestos packings, gaskets, resilient floor covering, and asphalt roofing products.
* Category II is any non-friable ACM not included in Category I.
The difference is which non-friable asbestos materials are “Regulated Asbestos Containing Materials” (RACMs). The legal definition covers:
* All friable ACMs,
* Including category I non-friable asbestos materials that have become friable as the other materials in them have broken down with age and weather.
* Category I non-friable asbestos materials that will be, or have been, subjected to sanding, grinding, cutting, or abrading.
* Category II non-friable asbestos materials that have a high probability of becoming or have become crumbled, pulverized, or powdered by the forces expected to act on the material in the course of demolition or renovation operations.
Any asbestos-containing material can become friable and fall under federal regulation. A material falls under federal regulation when the level of danger becomes too high for someone to be around it.
Friable asbestos is dangerous because it releases toxic fibers into the air. Breathing in these microscopic mineral fibers is what makes people sick, even though symptoms may not show for decades. The longer a person is around asbestos fibers, and the more fibers there are in the air, the more likely one will become debilitated or die from them. No one has been able to identify a safe level or period of asbestos exposure, so federal regulations are aimed at protecting everyone in the United States from as many airborne fibers as possible.
The fibrous or fluffy spray-applied asbestos materials found in many buildings for fireproofing, insulating, sound-proofing, or decorative purposes are considered friable. Pipe and boiler insulation found in numerous buildings is also considered friable, though it may be fairly well contained by other fabrics, tape, paint, or plastic.
When non-friable asbestos becomes friable, it is not the asbestos itself that crumbles, but the building materials in which it was used. As clay or other minerals age and wear, they break down and release the more-durable asbestos fibers. Burning any ACM, such as wallboard, asbestos papers, or ceiling tiles also releases asbestos fibers and changes the classification to friable and regulated. Cutting or drilling them, especially with power tools, will also release fibers. Anything done to building materials that may raise dust will cause dangers if the materials contain asbestos. Once released, the asbestos fibers are light enough to hang suspended in the air for hours and days, long after other dust from the project has settled.
It’s a month after the fire, and no one in charge thought to test for asbestos either in the debris or the air. The city’s reassurances ring hollow to me.