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Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that has been used in more than 3,000 different construction materials and manufactured products. It is commonly found in heating system insulation, decorative spray-on ceiling treatments, vinyl flooring, cement shake siding, and a variety of additional materials. Some asbestos-containing materials were still being installed in the late 1980s.
The asbestos content of different materials varies according to the product and how it is used. Materials containing higher concentrations of asbestos include insulating products on heating systems and the backing on sheet vinyl flooring.

The popular use of asbestos has stopped because scientists discovered that asbestos is harmful. When materials containing asbestos are disturbed or damaged, small fibers get into the air. Inhaling airborne asbestos particles can cause lung disease and cancer.

People who frequently work with asbestos material -- such as plumbers, contractors, and heating specialists -- can sometimes correctly identify whether or not a material contains asbestos just by visual inspection; however, the only way to be sure is to have a sample of the suspect material analyzed by a certified laboratory. Do not rely on visual determinations.

Materials suspected of containing asbestos should be treated as if they do until reliable analysis proves otherwise. Laboratories that do this work are usually listed in the phone book yellow pages under "Asbestos Consulting & Testing" and "Laboratories- Analytical." The popular use of asbestos has stopped because scientists discovered that asbestos is harmful. When materials containing asbestos are disturbed or damaged, small fibers get into the air. Inhaling airborne asbestos particles can cause lung disease and cancer.

Generally, it is recommended that homeowners leave the sampling of suspect material to certified asbestos contractors/companies. This is especially important if the proposed sampling material is insulation on a hot water boiler and/or piping system, which can be very hazardous. If homeowners decide to sample, it is very important that they do not release asbestos fibers into the air, onto themselves, or others during the sampling operation.

Before asbestos-contaminated waste can be accepted for disposal in a landfill in King County, Washington, it must be accompanied by the following:

Because of the great health risks, the disposal of asbestos is regulated by federal, state, and local laws.

Notification must be provided in advance by persons removing asbestos containing material to the Puget Sound Air Pollution Control Agency which enforces regulations concerning removal and disposal.

Asbestos containing waste material:

  • must be wetted down during removal to reduce airborne emissions;
  • once adequately wetted down, must be sealed in a leak proof container; the container must be dust-tight and at least 6 millimeters thick.

Wet all debris for disposal thoroughly with water to avoid free floating asbestos particles.

  • use a water hose with a nozzle for a fine, low-pressure spray or mist to wet the debris;
  • mix water with wetting agents, if possible.

Debris contaminated with asbestos (or even suspected of contamination):

  • should be stabilized by adequate wetting;
  • covered with plastic until removed by a licensed, asbestos contractor.

Debris containing at least one percent (1%) asbestos must be disposed of in approved landfills. The Cedar Hills Regional Landfill and Rabanco Recycling Company are the only places in King County that accept asbestos waste.

For more information about asbestos and disposal, call the Puget Sound Clear Air Agency at (206) 343-8800.

All information is general in nature and is not intended to be used as a substitute for appropriate professional advice. For more information please call (206) 296-4600 (voice/TDD).