Hazardous Materials Removal?

Hazardous Materials Removal

I’ve seen advertisements for hazardous materials removal workers, which pay quite well.  If I needed a job and had no skills to speak of, maybe I can drive a truck, this would probably appeal to me.  What the advertisements usually don’t mention is exactly what hazardous materials they’re removing.  Practically everything in the world, if we are exposed to it long enough, can cause us harm.  Fumes, tainted water, septic wastes, gasoline, oil, cleaning products, animal waste, blood, batteries, the list goes on and on.  All these things make me cringe when I think about cleaning them up myself, but the one that really scares me is asbestos.

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A Hazardous Waste Remover, A Very Hazardous Job!


Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been used widely in many industries.  The building industry has used the stuff since the 1800’s for insulating pipes and for making ceiling tiles.  The auto industry has made their brake and clutch pads out of it and it’s also been used in paint, adhesives and plastic.  In the 1980’s the Environmental Protection Agencey(EPA) banned all new uses of asbestos because it had been classified as a known human carcinogen, and ordered all schools to be inspected, and if asbestos was found, it was removed.


So, asbestos is all around us, cars, homes and businesses, and if it is found, it needs to be removed, that’s where the hazardous waste remover’s come in, and that’s where the real danger begins.  If it is left alone, undisturbed, there’s really nothing wrong with it.  However as a hazardous waste remover, it’s your job to do just that.  It’s impossible to remove without disturbing it and that’s when the asbestos fibers are released into the air.  When these fibers are sucked into human lungs, they become trapped and over time can cause inflammation, lung cancer and mesothelioma (a relatively rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen). Although rare, mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer caused by asbestos fibers. It’s not only mesothelioma, there is evidence but not conclusive proof of asbestos causing stomach and colon cancer, plus elevated risk of cancer to the throat, kidneys and gall bladder.  That’s some dangerous hazardous waste.

Is This Job Worth It?

My first day on the  job as a Hazardous Waste Remover, all excited because I finally got hired, I bet the boss will sit me down in a room, make me watch some videos on “Safe Asbestos Removal,” and probably give me a company rule book about following safe practices.  But is the five dollars an hour over minimum wage really worth it?  I watched my Aunt die of lung cancer, not a pleasant way to go.  Maybe before I sign on the dotted line and put on my plastic suit, hardhat and breathing mask, I should look into what my chances are for getting mesothelioma.  I’m sure they’re higher as a hazardous waste remover, then say working at a car wash, or cleaning windows, or as a bus boy, or working at Home Depot.  Maybe I should go to school and get some training  so I can find a job that won’t kill me.

For the latest information on asbestos and any other hazardous waste, the Department of Labor has it all posted at their site.  It’s well worth a visit.