Asbestos Release From Whole-Building Demolition of Buildings With Asbestos-Containing Material

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2007 Dec;4(12):889-94. doi: 10.1080/15459620701691023.


The whole-building demolition method, which entails one-or two-story buildings pushed down by heavy equipment, loaded into trucks, and hauled away, is generally the most cost-effective means to remove small buildings. For taller buildings, a crane and wrecking ball may be used initially to reduce the height of the building. Demolitions might release asbestos fibers from friable asbestos-containing material (ACM). Fibers also might be released from nominally nonfriable ACM (Categories I and II nonfriable ACM) if it becomes friable after rough handling throughout the whole-building demolition process. This paper reports on asbestos air monitoring from two demolition projects involving ACM. In one building, Category II nonfriable ACM was present because it could not be removed safely prior to demolition. Both projects had large quantities of gypsum wallboard with ACM joint compound and ACM flooring. One building had large quantities of ACM spray-on ceiling material. During the demolitions personal air monitoring of the workers and area air monitoring downwind and around the sites were conducted. The monitoring found the concentrations of fibers detected by phase contrast microscopy were generally well below the permissible exposure limits (PEL) of workers. Electron microcopy analysis of samples at or near the PEL indicated most of the fibers were not asbestos, and the actual asbestos exposure was often below the detection limit of the procedure. The buildings were kept wet with fire hoses during the demolition and that required large quantities of water, 20,000-60,000 gal/day (75-225 m(3)/day). Earlier studies found little asbestos release from buildings containing only nonfriable ACM demolished by this method. This project found a negligible release of asbestos fibers, despite the presence of nonfriable materials that might become friable, such as ACM joint compound and spray-on ACM ceiling coating.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Asbestos / analysis*
  • Construction Materials / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Facility Design and Construction / methods*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Wind


  • Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Particulate Matter
  • Asbestos