Friday, March 4, 2011

Apartment Update: Phone Call with Asbestos Expert/ Environmentalist

Our apartment management gave us the phone number for the environmentalist that they have leading the cleaning of the asbestos in the apartment, and Jeff and I had a long talk on the phone with him, which actually made me feel much better about the whole thing. We'll still get our clothes professionally cleaned and wipe everything down, but it was nice to get a full explanation from an expert. Here is some of what we learned.

We asked Mark (the expert) about the risk of contamination of whole apartment from having brought in items from our old apartment. He said that the risk is really pretty low. He explained that the building had asbestos fire-proofing around the kitchen and bath ducting in the walls, which was hit with axes by the fire department in the unit that was on fire, which allowed the asbestos to become airborn and travel in the smoke and heat. There is also three percent asbestos in the popcorn ceiling which was roasted by the fire and got loose. After the fire they did testing in the unit where the fire was and in the hallway, and then they did abatement (cleaning) in those areas to get rid of all the asbestos. Then they checked in every apartment on the ninth floor - by that time, the dust had settled, so they used box fans to get the dust back in the air, and then did air sampling.

In apartment 902 (our apartment) they found one asbestos fiber in all of the air sampling that they did. That's equivalent to 15 fibers per cubic centimeter. As a comparison, the EPA standard for schools (after asbestos abatement has been completed) is 70 fibers per cubic cm. So at a level of 15 fibers per cubic centimeter there is actually no legal action required. (And Mark said that if you took samples on the street, you'd probably find comparable levels, just from the breaks on people's cars falling apart and things like that.)

They tested other apartments around the building and found zero asbestos fibers - meaning that the background level in the building is actually zero normally. So Mark made the argument that all of the ninth floor apartments should be brought back down to a zero level as well. He said it's really a precautionary measure to help avoid legal action and ensure people are completely comfortable. They're just not allowing anything above zero as a final result. He said they'd be happy to do testing in our current apartment, though he doesn't think it's necessary and wouldn't recommend it - but if we're feeling nervous and would like to do it, we should let him know. (I think we probably won't bother.) He also said that he's written a series of about 15 memos throughout the process of the cleaning, which our management has, and which have been submitted to Joe Parish at the DDOE, so we could access those if we wanted to see more information about the whole process.

We also asked him what we need to do to make sure hard surfaces (computer, books, jewelry, etc.) that we got out are clean. He said the only problem with asbestos is it getting airborn. If there is no visible dust, then its find. Otherwise just spray it with windex and wipe it down, and then throw away the paper towel.

We also asked how to clean items that are hard and soft (like suitcase). He said the levels are so low that it really probably doesn't need to be cleaned, but if we want, we can give those things to our management and have them vacuumed with the special asbestos-cleaning vacuum, which has a  special particulate filter so the asbestos won't go through bag.

So that's it - sounds like everything is really ok, so that's great!

1 comment:

duxex said...

I caught this post while googling around for some more information, ironically you guys live in the same apartment number that I live in and I had a similar incident. (btw, I just moved from DC too) I was wondering if I could e-mail you to compare what they did in DC vs what they did where I am living now.