Why is asbestos an issue? Do I really need to remove it?

Asbestos is a commonly used word that describes groups of naturally occurring fibrous minerals known to cause cancer. Individual fibers are invisible to the naked eye, and positive identification is required through survey testing. Asbestos has been mined for use in over 3,000 products, due to its versatility and wide ranging properties such as resistance to fire and heat, chemical corrosion, flexibility and high tensile strength. For these reasons, asbestos – containing material (ACM) is regulated by federal, state and local agencies.

In reality, the asbestos fibers are dangerous when they are disturbed from their stand-still setting. For instance, demolition that starts without testing for asbestos can run the risk of putting asbestos fibers in the air where they can be inhaled. Just because there is ACM present does not necessarily mean that it is a health risk, but you must be careful so the materials are not disturbed through remodeling, renovation, restoration and demolition. Any removal of asbestos material requires a professional contractor for proper abatement and transportation for disposal.

What type of Contractor is KB Environmental?

We are considered an “Abatement Contractor”. We  remove and dispose of any material that is identified as having asbestos, lead and hazardous content. This is part demolition and part waste management.

Does KBE test for Asbestos, lead or hazardous materials?

State regulations require that all hazardous material testing and surveys be performed by an independent third-party Certified Industrial Hygienist. The “hygienist” will conduct a “survey test,” whereby they collect samples of building materials, take it back to their laboratory, and determine if it’s positive for any environmental hazards.

If you need a referral to an industrial hygienist, we can provide you with the names of a few companies we currently work with and trust. We give you the 3 or 4 referrals, so that you can compare on pricing and services, as is standard in the construction industry.

What are the health risks associated with asbestos?

Health risks commonly associated with exposure to asbestos, or the asbestos fibers, include:

  • Asbestosis – a condition in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue making breathing more and more difficult, often requiring the victim to use oxygen.
  • Cancer – cancer of the lungs is the most common cancer associated with exposure. Other areas may become cancerous including the throat, gastrointestinal tract and kidneys.
  • Mesothelioma – a rare, often fatal cancer, usually occurring in the chest cavity.

Asbestos that is in good condition and left undisturbed is unlikely to present a health risk. The risks from asbestos occur when it is damaged or disturbed where asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled. Managing asbestos in place and maintaining it in good repair is often the best approach.

I am thinking about buying a house but it has vermiculite attic insulation in it. Should I have it removed before or after I buy the house?

Removal of the vermiculite insulation may not be necessary if it is confined in a manner where it will be left undisturbed. If you choose to have the vermiculite insulation removed, the EPA recommends that you use a trained and accredited asbestos contractor that is separate and independent from the company that performed the assessment of the vermiculite insulation to avoid any conflict of interest.

The ‘loose-fill’ insulation in my home does have asbestos. Am I at risk? Should I take it out?

If you do have loose-fill/vermiculite insulation in your pre-1990 home’s attic, you should assume this material may be contaminated with asbestos. The EPA recommends that vermiculite insulation be left undisturbed. Airborne asbestos fibers present a health risk through inhalation, so the first step is to not disturb the material, which could release fibers into the air. If you disturb the insulation, you may inhale some asbestos fibers. The degree of health risk depends on how much and how often this occurred. If you choose to remove the vermiculite insulation, this work should be done by a trained and accredited asbestos abatement contractor that is separate and independent from the company that performed the assessment of the vermiculite insulation to avoid any conflict of interest.

How do I know if I have asbestos in my home (in floor tile, ceiling tile, shingles, siding, etc.)?

The only way to be sure whether a material contains asbestos is to have it tested by a qualified industrial hygienist. EPA only recommends testing suspect materials if they are damaged (fraying, crumbling) or if you are planning a renovation that would disturb the suspect material. Samples should be taken by a properly trained and accredited asbestos professional (inspector).

I’m remodeling my home. Do I need to be concerned about asbestos in the building materials?

It’s not possible for you to tell whether a material in your home contains asbestos simply by looking at it. If you suspect a material within your home might contain asbestos (for example floor tile, ceiling tile or old pipe wrap) and the material is damaged (fraying or falling apart) or if you are planning on performing a renovation that would disturb the material, the EPA recommends that you have it sampled by an industrial hygienist, and analyzed by a qualified laboratory. Also, you may learn more about whether the replacement materials you intend to install might possibly contain asbestos by reading the product labels, calling the manufacturer, or by asking if your retailer can provide you with the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product(s) in question.

What should a professional abatement contractor have?

The EPA recommends that you use a trained & licensed abatement contractor that is properly trained to handle asbestos. You can perform an internet search for “asbestos contractor” and the location of your home. Or contract your state to determine what state training and accreditation requirements may exist for both the contractor and their workers. Basically, an abatement contractor in California needs to be registered with the state, have a contractor’s license with the State License Boards, and have the proper business insurance coverage.

Check our our registration (we’re # 1056):


Check our our contractor’s license (we’re # 974724):



Does a home seller have to disclose to a potential buyer that a home contains asbestos? What about vermiculite?

Federal law does not require the seller to disclose to a buyer that their home contains asbestos or vermiculite. State or local requirements may require disclosure. Contact your state about such requirements.

Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


Why was lead ever used in paint?

Lead was used in paint as a drying agent. Lead based paint was used inside homes because it was the most durable paint, and had the brightest colors. It was also used on the outside of homes because it could withstand extreme weather changes. Lead based paint kills mold and mildew. Because mold and mildew typically grow in high moisture areas, lead based paint was often used in places where moisture was found such as bathrooms and kitchens. As more was learned about the dangers of lead, Federal legislation phased out the use of lead in paint, and by 1978 it was banned from residential paints altogether.

What is lead poisoning?

Lead can be found in a variety of materials and is very hazardous because it can affect vital organs such as the kidneys and the central nervous system. If young children are exposed to lead, there is the possibility of brain damage. Lead exposer has been linked to low IQ, learning disabilities, and behavior problems in children. In the worst case scenario, lead exposure can cause a coma or even death!

How do children become lead poisoned?

Children are most frequently lead poisoned by household lead paint dust. Lead dust is created by chipping or peeling paint, opening and closing lead painted windows, or repairs or renovations to lead painted surfaces. Lead paint dust rests on surfaces which children touch and then clings to their hands and toys. Children ingest this lead dust when they put their hands or toys into their mouths. Children are also lead poisoned by mouthing lead painted surfaces and eating lead paint chips. Young children absorb a significantly higher percentage of ingested lead than adults. In rare instances, children are lead poisoned by lead contaminated water and soil.

What are the odds that my house contains lead paint?

In general, the older the home, the more likely it will contain lead paint. Approximately 57 million houses, apartments, and other residences across the U.S. contain lead based paint. Based on Lead Tech’s experience inspecting homes in Southern California, we can make the following generalizations. While every house is unique, the residence’s age usually dictates the following odds:
Before 1940: 50% on the interior, and 80% or more on exterior;
1940 -1950: 30% on interior, and >50% on the exterior;
1950 -1960: <20% on interior, and >30% on exterior;
1960 – 1970: <10%;
1970 – 1978: <5% contain lead paint.

Why should I inspect for lead paint?

Whether you’re a resident or a contractor, exposure to lead can cause serious health problems. Reasons for having a lead inspection vary, depending whether you’ve been hired to renovate the house or are already living in it. We’ve compiled our responses as they relate to contractors, home owners and buyers. Check out your category below to learn more:

Contractors: If you are going to work on a residence built prior to 1978, you are required to follow the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule regulations. Testing your projects will locate and identify those building components that contain lead based paint, or even better, identify all the paint as lead free. With this information you will save time and money by possibly avoiding the RRP procedures all together.

Home Owner: You should test for lead based paint, dust and soil contamination if your home was built prior to 1978 and you have children under six years old or are planning to have children. You should test if you are planning to remodel, paint or renovate your home. You should test if you have deteriorated, chipped paint. You should test if you live near a freeway or a busy road where leaded gasoline exhaust may have contaminated the soil.

Home Buyer: If planning to purchase a house, you need to find out when the home was built. If it was built prior to 1978, the seller is required to notify you that it may contain lead based paint. If there is lead paint, the cost to renovate, repair, or paint the home will increase. More importantly, you can better protect your family knowing whether there is lead in the paint.

Are home lead test kits from hardware stores reliable?

There are a variety of at-home lead testing kits that use Sodium Rhodizonate (turns pink) available at stores such as Home Depot. Government organizations such as HUD and the EPA do not consider these do-it-yourself lead testing kits to be an official or reliable way to evaluate lead contamination. The EPA goes as far as to say that most of these lead testing kits should not be relied on for accurate results. They produce a lot of false positives and false negatives.

How do you test for lead?

California certified lead inspectors utilize RMD XRF analyzers to test for lead paint. XRF analysis is a safe, non-destructive method for testing for lead. An XRF analyzer exposes a surface to radiation emitted from a sealed source inside the instrument. The source of this radiation is a 12 mCi, Cobalt 57 isotope. When a sample area is exposed to XRF, lead present in the sample emits its own unique fluorescent x-ray energy spectrum. The analyzer detects this energy and quantifies the amount of lead in the area sampled.

How is lead paint defined?

Chapter 11 of the Los Angeles Department of Health and Human Services Safety Code, LTE considers XRF readings equal to or greater than 0.7 mg/cm2 lead positive.

How do you decide what to test?

Lead inspections pursuant to the Department of Housing & Urban Development (“HUD”) document entitled Guidelines for The Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing, 1997 edition. We can limit the inspection to only the painted components that will be disturbed during future renovations, or inspect the entire building.