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What's the Difference - Asbestos Removal vs. Asbestos Encapsulation?


Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once widely used in building materials due to its strength and heat-resistant properties. However, it was discovered that prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers could cause serious health problems, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. As a result, asbestos is now considered a hazardous substance, and its use is heavily regulated in many countries, including New Zealand.


The dangers of asbestos exposure cannot be overstated. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and can easily be inhaled, leading to respiratory illnesses and diseases. A study from 2016 noted that asbestos exposure is the leading cause of occupational cancer in New Zealand, with approximately 170 deaths each year attributed to asbestos-related diseases.


As a result, the safe and professional removal of asbestos is paramount. The process of removing asbestos must be carried out by trained professionals with the equipment and expertise to handle the hazardous material safely. In addition, asbestos removal companies must follow strict safety guidelines and regulations set out by the New Zealand government to protect workers and the general public from exposure to asbestos fibers.


If asbestos-containing materials are found in a building, they must be safely removed before any renovation or demolition work can be carried out. Failure to do so can lead to serious health risks and potential legal liabilities for property owners and contractors.


What is Asbestos Removal?

Asbestos removal is a process of safely removing asbestos-containing materials from a building or property. A trained professional should only undertake asbestos removal to ensure you and your family are kept safe and the building is not contaminated further.


The process of asbestos removal involves several steps.

  • The asbestos-containing material is identified through a visual inspection and sampling to confirm the presence of asbestos fibers.

  • A detailed plan is created to safely remove the material, including measures to protect workers, occupants, and the environment from exposure to asbestos fibers.

  • A class asbestos-containing areas will then be sealed off with plastic sheeting. Negative air pressure equipment ensures that any asbestos fibers released during removal are captured and contained. B class asbestos will require PPE gear and specialised equipment.

  • Work will then commence with professionals wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from breathing in asbestos fibers and to prevent the spread of asbestos dust to other areas of the building or home.

  • Once the asbestos-containing material has been removed, the area is thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated. Your professional asbestos removal company will then undertake air monitoring to ensure that the air quality in the surrounding areas is safe and meets the required standards.

  • Finally, the asbestos waste is packaged and disposed of in a licensed asbestos landfill.


It is important to note that asbestos removal should only be done by licensed professionals trained and experienced in handling asbestos-containing materials. Removing asbestos on your own can be extremely dangerous and is not recommended.


What is Asbestos Encapsulation?

Asbestos encapsulation is a process of sealing or coating asbestos-containing materials with a protective layer to prevent the release of harmful asbestos fibers into the air. The encapsulation process involves asbestos removal experts applying a sealant or coating material to the surface to create a barrier that prevents the fibers from being released.


The encapsulation process is considered an alternative to asbestos removal. However, it can only be undertaken if the asbestos is in good condition, meaning that the risk of fiber release is low. Encapsulation is often used when removal is not feasible, such as in areas that are difficult to access or when removal would cause significant damage to the building or its structure.

However, encapsulation is not a permanent solution to your asbestos problem. The protective layer may degrade over time, leading to the release of asbestos fibers. Homeowners will also need to inform when selling their properties that encapsulation has taken place and that there are known asbestos on their properties. Encapsulated asbestos must also be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure its effectiveness in preventing the release of harmful fibers.


Pros and Cons of Asbestos Removal vs. Encapsulation

Total removal is always best; however, it will depend on the amount of asbestos and how easily it can be removed, which will affect this decision. A professional asbestos removal company can advise if encapsulation or removal is best suited to your situation.


When dealing with asbestos-containing materials in a building or home, it is essential to carefully consider whether to remove or encapsulate and what is the best choice for your home or building. There are a few factors to consider;


  1. The Condition of Asbestos - Encapsulation may be an option if the asbestos is in good condition and not damaged or deteriorating. However, if the material is crumbling or damaged, removing it may be necessary to avoid releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

  2. Location of Asbestos - If the material is in an area that is difficult to access or if it is part of the structure of the building, removal may be more complex and very expensive. In these cases, encapsulation may be a more practical option.

  3. Building Use - If the building is used for a high-risk activity, such as a school or hospital, it may be necessary to remove the asbestos-containing material to ensure the safety of occupants. Encapsulation may be more appropriate for buildings that are used for lower-risk activities.

  4. Selling - If you plan on selling them in the future, it may be more valuable to have the asbestos-containing material removed rather than encapsulated. This can provide peace of mind to potential buyers and increase the property's value.


The cost of removal and encapsulation can vary depending on the amount of asbestos-containing material, location, and other factors. Therefore, before deciding, getting the right advice from a reputable asbestos removal company and comparing removal costs vs. encapsulation is vital.


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