Unfortunately, there is no regulation related to asbestos in my country, and most people don't realize just how dangerous it can be. But I'm afraid that if I ask the contractor to get it removed, they'll break it, which will lead to spreading very harmful particles everywhere. What should I do?
I have looked and never been able to find any data that indicates there is any measurable risk from a single, limited, isolated exposure to asbestos like this job would entail.
Here is what I would do. I'd put on a dust mask, cut it off with a reciprocating saw, maybe with a shop vac on it to pick up the worst of the sawdust.
I'd put the cutoff in a garbage bag, empty the shop vacuum into the garbage bag, and tie the garbage bag shut while wearing the mask. I might hose down the area.
Obviously you would want to control the area to some extent so there's no kids, neighbors, etc. watching and being exposed to the dust.
The hazard with asbestos comes when it's in the air and you breath it and you're exposed to it repeatedly over time. The serious hazard is years of exposure, for example pipefitters and insulators that handled asbestos for years without protection had higher incidences of lung cancer, especially in smokers.
It's not a direct analogy but it's like smoking: it's dangerous but you are very very unlikely to get lung cancer from a smoking a single cigarette. (Fortunately asbestos is not addictive so you don't have to worry that this one job will lead to two packs of asbestos a day for the next 20 years.)
Asbestos can cause problems but they are actually quite rare. Back in the 70’s and prior decades many building products had asbestos, popcorn ceilings, floor tile, siding, insulation, then things like brake shoes , to tell the truth after 40+ years in and around construction I have never known anyone that was affected , for many years I did demos without even a dust mask, people in the asbestos industry had life long jobs yes a few were affected , but , many thousands were not.
The issue is it can be lethal , so strict rules were enacted , heck my little brother is having a swimming pool installed and they had to monitor for asbestos in the earth. I can’t even count the numbers of trenches I dug by hand without a dust mask and even more with a back hoe.
I now use dust masks and normally wear a tyvek suit to be safe, wet the material down with water to try and reduce the chance of creating airborne fibers. In my area it can be put in plastic bags and taken to a dump (not a transfer station). It sounds like your country it may be able to be put directly in the garbage like we did for many years.
I think some go overboard but it can be lethal so risk mitigation steps need to be taken. You may find other building materials also contain asbestos so wearing a dust mask while the work is being done is a good idea and frequent wipe down of countertops with a wet cloth.
Removing the asbestos isn't your only option. If there's no safe, practical way to remove it, you can also encapsulate it. This entails applying some sort of sealant to the outside of the asbestos material that will bind the fibers together and prevent them from crumbling or flaking.
Since your ceiling will be lower than the asbestos sheet and since the sheet appears to be passing through a load-bearing wall, it may make more sense to leave it where it is and encapsulate it instead.
Disclaimer: I may be over-cautious about it. There was asbestos panic in my country when I was growing up.
Carefully, preferably using qualified contractor even if you would have to pay someone from further away.
I mean, yes, any time when you want to ask "should I get rid of asbestos in or near my living area?" the answer is yes you should.
You should not do it yourself. Asbestos just being there releases carcinogenic particles relatively slowly. Asbestos being cut by someone who does not know how to do it releases a lot o them in a short time, and they'll be everywhere in and near your home. It might be expensive to hire reputable contractor, but it is the only way to be safe.
From my experience, contractors that are skilled in asbestos removal make a pretty big point out of it, and you can easily see it in their web page etc. Your mileage may vary, of course. And if you'll see them cutting or breaking it without any protection (water, plastic foil, masks on faces etc) definitely tell them to stop and kick them out of your property.
If you do not have any contractor trained to work with asbestos in your area, or willing to go to our area, the safest way is just let it be until you find one. Painting it with something that would prevent dust will help. I've seen oil-based paint and tar used for this purpose, but I am not a certified pro in this matter so you are doing it or not doing it on your own responsibility. If you will, buy really good dust mask, one that'll protect your lungs and eyes, and do not touch it more than you have to.
Last but not least, there are good guides / codes on asbestos removal on government sites around the world. Easiest to read seems to be Australian (and specifically for small jobs here ). It boils down to:
- Everything should be dripping wet
- Wrap everything in thick plastic foil
- Protect yourself
- Do not touch if you can avoid it
I wouldn't dare to do it, honestly, but if I had to, I would read their guide and linked document before attempting it.