Often laboratory results for bulk building material samples will show less than 1% asbestos. Almost as often, building owners or contractors will conclude they do not have to do anything about those materials. That is not necessarily true. These lab results mean that the lab technician saw asbestos fibers but that the concentration was less than 1%. Had the technician not seen any fibers, the results would have been none detected or non-detectable. The National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) regulation requires that these samples be point counted. The only other option is to assume they contain asbestos and comply with all applicable regulations. If the samples are point counted and the results are still below 1%, a NESHAPs notification is not required. NESHAPs is administered in Florida by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and several counties under contract with the FDEP.
The fact that no notification is required has been misconstrued to mean no other requirements of any other agencies have to be met. That is not necessarily true. There are still requirements of the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Florida Statutes, landfills, and local government which may have to be met. OSHA has the less than 1% definition in its construction industry standard for asbestos abatement, but it also requires that disturbance of asbestos containing building materials not exceed OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL). Quite often when calculations are completed for the asbestos fiber concentration in air after disturbance of a building material with less than 1% asbestos, the PEL would be exceeded. In that case, OSHA’s abatement standard must be met.
In short, caution must be exercised in deciding the course of action for asbestos concentrations less than 1%. The potential worker exposure, contamination of buildings, and associated liabilities may be far greater than 1% of the building contract!