Oregon Home Asbestos Demolition Laws Becoming Stricter

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Oregon’s asbestos laws regarding home asbestos demolition will become stricter per the passing of Senate Bill 705, starting on January 1st. The state’s legislature passed the bill pertaining to asbestos surveying requirements due to a large concern from its residents about exposure to the hazardous chemical.

Asbestos can cause mesothelioma cancer and a variety of other health problems. One way being when the chemical is handled improperly or disposed incorrectly, resulting in fibers being released into the air. With residential homes, insulation is a big contributor.

The fibers are microscopic and flexible, so they’re easy to use in insulation. Roll, spray, and loose “popcorn” insulation are among the varieties. Additionally, asbestos could be used in some type of mixture or compound where it could lend insulation properties to more materials.

Other common asbestos-containing items include heating and piping like furnaces and lining around ventilation pipes, exterior surfaces such as roofing and shingles, interior surfaces, floor coverings, electrical equipment, vintage appliances, and more. With flooring, asbestos was used in adhesives or linoleum compounds.

Ceiling tiles and popcorn ceilings were also a common use of asbestos. Since they were often in close proximity to lighting fixtures, asbestos was used to maintain their fire-resistance.

In fact, nearly 80% of structures built prior to 1980 have asbestos in them, many being the homes we live in. An estimated 30 million homes may still contain asbestos materials in them. Not until the late 1970s did its use become more heavily regulated in residences.

Senator Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, sponsored Senate Bill 705. “We’re seeing many neighborhoods being transformed as a result of older homes being demolished and replaced by new, often larger homes, or by multifamily residences,” he said.

“These demolitions have created many issues for neighbors. Among them is the negative health effect of dust and debris that may contain carcinogens and other harmful materials, such as asbestos,” said Dembrow.

The Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) approved a temporary rule that states a residence cannot be demolished without an accredited inspector completing an asbestos survey. This type of rule already exists for multifamily residences and other structures.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. One, if the home was constructed after January 4, 2004. Two, if all building material is treated as if it contains asbestos. Three, if the DEQ approves on a case-by-case basis. With the third option, a written request is required to get the asbestos survey waived.

If you find asbestos in your home, you’ll want to know if it’s “friable,” meaning asbestos that’s damaged, compromised, or unstable to the point it’s crushable or able to be reduced to powder through human hand pressure. For example, a ceiling tile might be damaged by water and now easily breakable or cracked.

In the home or not, asbestos should always be removed by an accredited asbestos abatement company. They know how and when to remove asbestos (or when to simply encapsulate it) and they are able to properly dispose of the material as well.