What is asbestos?
Where is asbestos found?
Asbestos Worker Protection Resources
Other Useful Resources
Asbestos is a mineral-based substance commonly found in older
building materials (most buildings constructed before 1973 have some asbestos-containing
materials), such as pipe insulation, although it can also be found in some
new building materials (2,400 tons of asbestos were imported into the US during
the year 2005 – 30% for roofing materials, 30% for coatings and compounds,
40% for other applications).
Working with asbestos can pose significant health hazards,
especially when asbestos-containing materials are exposed during routine facility
maintenance, or during renovation and demolition projects. If inhaled,
asbestos accumulates in the lungs, creating scar tissue. This condition
not only makes it more difficult to breathe – it can also lead to a type
of lung cancer called mesothelioma,
which is almost always fatal by the time it is diagnosed. Recent research
has also linked asbestos to certain gastro-intestinal cancers (more).
Therefore, asbestos is extensively regulated and its removal must be performed
by licensed and trained professionals.
What is asbestos?
"Asbestos" is not a single, specific
material – it is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals. The
following are varieties of commercial asbestos, meaning they are used in commercial
products or are asbestos contaminants found in commercial-grade asbestos:
- Tremolite asbestos
- Anthophyllite asbestos
- Actinolite asbestos
- Other "asbestiform" minerals, including winchite, richterite,
edenite, and erionite.
Typically, asbestos appears as a whitish, fibrous material
which may release fibers that range in texture from coarse to silky. Note
that you can't always rely on visual cues to tell you whether you are at risk
– airborne fibers that can cause health damage may be too small to see with
the naked eye.
Where is asbestos found?
Asbestos is commonly found in old buildings, including hospitals
built in the 1940's to 1973 (even some new building materials contain asbestos
–- the best way to determine if a building contains asbestos is to have it
inspected by a licensed and trained asbestos building inspector). In
2006, New York City officials reported that a survey of city-administered hospitals
turned up asbestos problems at 10 of their 15 facilities (more).
Veterinary maintenance workers and engineers can be unknowingly
exposed to asbestos from many possible areas and sources. Engineers can be
exposed while working in furnace rooms where boilers are insulated with asbestos,
or when making repairs to old piping or doing minor renovations. Significant
asbestos exposures can occur when insulation in buildings is removed during
renovations. Asbestos is used in making building materials because high
tensile strength, flexibility (woven), resistance to chemical and thermal degradation,
and high electrical resistance. of its high tensile strength, flexibility (woven),
resistance to chemical and thermal degradation, and high electrical resistance. The
most common sources of asbestos in veterinary facilities include:
- Pipe insulation
- Building materials (siding, wall board or spackling compounds,
floor tile, ceiling tile)
- HVAC duct insulation
- Boiler insulation
- Cooling towers
- Electrical wiring insulation
Pipe insulation (i.e., "pipe wrap") is a very common building
material found insulating boilers and pipes in most commercial and industrial
buildings as well as many residential structures. It is highly friable (can
be reduced to powder by hand pressure), indicating that asbestos fibers are
readily dispersed from the material when it is disturbed. There are many other
building materials containing asbestos, and which may release asbestos if disturbed
or if impacted by renovations. These include transite siding, asbestos cement,
vinyl asbestos floor tile, paints and coatings, roofing materials, vermiculite
insulation, carpet mastics and glues, popcorn ceiling textural coatings,
Workers may intentionally expose and disturb building materials
while unaware that these materials contain asbestos. In such cases, personal
protective equipment that is effective against worker asbestos exposure is
rarely in place for the workers, much less for other building occupants (who
may be unknowingly exposed to asbestos fibers through the central air handling
and ductwork system.
Asbestos removal can be a costly undertaking because of the
precautions that must be implemented and the ultimate cost it is often tricky
to project. For example, in 2005, at Evansville State Hospital, asbestos
removal following the demolition of a number of old buildings cost over five
and a half million dollars; more than double what officials originally expected
There are two primary sets of rules. One set, developed
and administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was designed
to protect the general public. The other, by the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration (OSHA), is directed toward protecting workers.
- The EPA rules were established under the authority of
the Clean Air Act (CAA). These rules are referred to as the Asbestos NESHAP (National
Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants). They cover work practices
to be followed during demolition and renovation and other activities involving
the processing, handling, and disposal of asbestos-containing material.
- The OSHA
rules establish strict worker exposure limits and set out requirements
for employers regarding exposure assessment, medical surveillance, recordkeeping,
and hazard communication.
The EPA rules under the Asbestos
Hazard Emergency Response Act expands health and safety standards to
state and local government employees (see 40 CFR
Part 763). OSHA rules cover private sector workers.
In addition to EPA and OSHA rules, the Department of Transportation
regulates the transportation of asbestos-containing waste material (requires
waste containment and shipping papers).
It is important to note that state and local rules may establish
stricter and more diverse requirements well beyond what are required at the
EPA and OSHA asbestos regulations have been in place for
some time, and a lot of useful compliance assistance resources have been developed.
In order to help you find those items which are likely to be most useful to
you, this section presents a selection of the resources that VetCA considers
the best and most relevant to the veterinary industry.
Please note that the information presented below applies
only to federal regulations. State (and sometimes local)
asbestos regulations are often more stringent and far reaching than the
federal regulations. Therefore, you should also use the Asbestos State Regulation Locator to
learn about the rules in your state.
Practices Under the Asbestos NESHAP. A
plain language summary of the Asbestos NESHAP covering pre-demolition
activities, demolition practices by type of ACM and by method, waste
handling, and disposal practices.
- Common Questions
on the Asbestos NESHAP. A web page that covers questions
raised in recent years by demolition and renovation contractors . Most
relate to how a demolition or renovation contractor or building owner
can best comply with the regulation. The responses assume that the questioner
has a basic understanding of the Asbestos NESHAP and
demolition and renovation practices. A brief glossary of terms is also
included at the bottom of the web page.
- Asbestos NESHAP
Adequately Wet Guidance. The Asbestos NESHAP requires
friable asbestos containing material (ACM) to be "adequately wet". The
purpose of this web page is to provide guidance to asbestos inspectors
and the regulated community on how to determine if work practices are
meeting the requirement.
Regulated Asbestos Containing Materials Guidance. The purpose
of this web page is to assist asbestos inspectors and the regulated community
in determining whether or not a material should be classified as a regulated
asbestos containing material (RACM) and is
thus subject to the Asbestos NESHAP.
- Field Guide: Reporting
And Record Keeping Requirements For Waste Disposal. This
is a web page designed to help you comply with the new reporting and
record keeping requirements of the Asbestos NESHAP.
The specific responsibilities of waste generators, transporters and waste
disposal site operators are addressed, as well as detailed explanations
of how to complete the new forms accurately and efficiently.
Asbestos Worker Protection Resources
Hospital eTool – Asbestos Exposure. A
useful overview of the issues and possible solutions.
- Self-Inspection Checklist:
Asbestos. OSHA. Use this checklist to determine compliance to the asbestos standard.
Worker Protection; EPA's Final Rule, 40 CFR Part 763. In
this Final Rule, EPA amends both the Asbestos Worker Protection Rule
(WPR) and the Asbestos-in-Schools Rule. The WPR amendment protects State
and local government employees (construction work, custodial work, and
automotive brake and clutch repair work) from the health risks of exposure
to asbestos to the same extent as private sector workers by adopting
for these employees the Asbestos Standards of the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration (OSHA).
Advisor (OSHA software). The Asbestos
Advisor is an interactive compliance assistance tool. Once installed
on your PC, it can interview you about buildings and worksites, and the
kinds of tasks workers perform there. It will produce guidance on how
the Asbestos standard may apply to those buildings and that work. Its
guidance depends on your answers. It can provide general guidance and
may, also, be focused on a particular project.
Standards, including Preambles to OSHA StandardsThis is
a complete listing of OSHA regulations pertaining to asbestos. If you
are looking for the regulations covering exposure during renovation and
demolition, go to 1926.1101
Asbestos State Resource Locator. Use
this resource to locate points of contact in your state regarding asbestos
Interpretation of Compliance Letters. These
are highly useful letters written by OSHA in response to questions submitted
by construction companies and individuals. The letters have been organized
Other Useful Resources