Asbestos Point Counting Defined

Point counting is a detailed laboratory method that determines the actual asbestos content of friable building materials.  It shows if the content is greater than 1%.  The federal asbestos regulations for building renovations and demolitions allow point counting.

The actual regulation is found in Chapter 61.145 of Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, otherwise known as 40 CFR 61.145.  Chapter 61 contains the NESHAPs rules (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants).  NESHAPs covers quite a few hazardous air pollutants and asbestos is addressed in Subpart M of Chapter 61.  NESHAPs is enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA,  State agencies such as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ( also enforce it.

When to Asbestos Point Count

Do point counting when the material is friable and the initial results are less than 10%.  This more detailed procedure tightens the statistics, providing a more accurate concentration.


What are the options?  First, assume the initial results are correct and the material contains more than 1% asbestos.  Next, abate it prior to disturbance (renovation or demolition).  Otherwise, point count it.

Asbestos point countingThe decision involves money.  The cost of point counting a few samples is a few hundred dollars.  But, the cost of abatement is a few thousand dollars.  In either case, removing the material can cause an inhalation hazard for the workers and occupants.  This is true even for asbestos concentrations less than 1%.  That number is a regulatory number, not a safe, no exposure number.


Like a lot of construction issues, point counting is a business decision.  The building owner and occupants make the decision, with the building contractor, licensed asbestos consultant, and licensed asbestos contractor.  Consider the potential outcomes.  For example, the owner and occupants may say they want it removed properly by a licensed asbestos contractor whatever the concentration is.  Alternatively, they may not care about the potential exposure and opt for the building contractor to carefully remove it it if it contains less than 1% asbestos.

Environmental Safety ConsultantsSo there is a discussion of point counting building materials for asbestos.  If you need any assistance, ESC ( is here.  On staff, we have a Florida Licensed Asbestos Consultant and board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).  ESC has been providing asbestos consulting services to our clients for over thirty years.  We have the credentials and experience to help you with your asbestos needs.  Our firm is just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (  Contact us today!

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 (

So, which materials can contain asbestos?  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 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. ( 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 (  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!

asbestos confusionIf you need any more information, Environmental Safety Consultants ( can assist. We have the credentials and experience to answer your questions and steer you in the right direction. We are a Florida-licensed Asbestos & Engineering business and are licensed by the U.S. EPA in Lead Based Paint Inspections and Risk Assessments. ESC also has a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, Board for EHS Credentialing, formerly American Board of Industrial Hygiene, which is critical for lead work.

We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away ( Contact us today!