Why All The Fuss With Asbestos?

asbestos suitWell, the fuss with asbestos all comes down to health risks.  Some of the potential outcomes are very serious – lung cancer, mesothelioma (i.e., cancer of the lining of the chest cavity), and asbestosis (a pulmonary obstructive disease that eventually puts such a strain on the lungs and heart, that the patient dies from cardiac arrest).  The primary route of entry for these extremely small asbestos fibers is inhalation.  Theoretically, these diseases can be caused by one exposure episode.  However, the greater the dose, the greater the disease.  And, finally, the diseases do not show up for ten to thirty years after the exposure.  That is a very long latency period.

There are many misconceptions about asbestos.  First of all, it is not just the ship workers who were exposed to it during World War II.  Second, one does not have to be in a dusty asbestos cloud to experience an exposure resulting in disease.  And, finally, it has not been asbestos testingbanned from all materials in the United States.  It has been banned in five to seven materials and it is still found in building materials being imported today.  It is not always listed on the material, sometimes a label states that a product is non-asbestos when it is not, and sometimes it is labeled as asbestos free, but chrysotile (the most common type) is listed on the ingredients).

The mining of asbestos and manufacture of asbestos containing building materials represents potential exposure to the personnel involved.  And sometimes, the workers bring the fibers home on clothing and shoes to their families.  This reportedly occurred in Libby, Montana where asbestos was mined (www.pbs.org/pov/libbymontana).

So, which materials can contain asbestos?  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, www.epa.gov) has a list of building materials suspected of containing asbestos.  It virtually includes everything except glass, metal, and wood.  Asbestos was added to thousands of materials due to its fire resistance, added strength, and chemical resistance.  It is a relatively inexpensive naturally occurring mineral which was added to nearly all building materials, plus brake linings, concrete, cement drinking water pipes, and gaskets.  It was used for fireproofing in schools, hospitals, airports, nursing homes, and other public and private installations and facilities.

asbestos workersFinally, workers who install, remove, or demolish it in buildings are at risk.  That is why EPA requires testing for asbestos before all renovations and demolitions of most buildings before the work is started.  If asbestos is present, certain abatement procedures will be required before the construction or demolition work begins.

But there is no reason to fuss.  Environmental Safety Consultants, Inc. (www.escflorida.com) can help.  We have the credentials and experience to properly complete your Asbestos Survey.  We have accredited Asbestos Surveyors and a Florida Licensed Asbestos Consultant (LAC) on staff.  We are a Florida-licensed Asbestos Business Organization with over thirty years of experience in the asbestos field.  We prepare abatement specifications, monitor abatement projects, and complete air clearance monitoring.  Whatever your asbestos needs are, just call us (800-226-1735 or one of our area office local numbers listed on our home page) or e-mail us ([email protected]).  Contact us today and get rid of the fuss!

1% Asbestos Confusion

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!