Asbestos

History

Asbestos is a generic term used to describe any of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals. Due to its desirable characteristics, asbestos was incorporated into a number of widely distributed products, many of which were used in building construction beginning in the late 1800’s. It is estimated that upwards of 3,000 different types of materials may contain asbestos. By the early 1980’s most products containing asbestos had been removed from the market in the United States.


Health Risks

The fibers within the asbestos mineral can be harmful when inhaled.  These fibers can cause damage to the lung which can lead to diseases such asbestosis (scarring of the lung tissue), lung cancer, and mesothelioma (cancer of the lung’s lining). When left intact and undisturbed, these materials do not pose a health risk to building occupants.


Common Building Materials That Contain Asbestos

Some common building materials that have been found to contain asbestos at the University include:

  • wall and ceiling plaster
  • vinyl floor tiles
  • transite wall board and pipe
  • ceiling tiles
  • pipe insulation
  • roofing materials

These and, virtually any building material installed prior to 1981, are presumed to contain asbestos unless testing proves otherwise. EHS is the only office on campus with staff members who are trained to conduct asbestos sampling and they must be contacted for testing.


Reporting Damaged Asbestos-Containing Material

Damaged asbestos-containing material should be reported to Facilities or EHS. EHS is available to assist in determining whether a suspect material contains asbestos and to perform exposure assessments.


Maintenance and Renovation Work That May Disturb Asbestos

Prior to building maintenance or renovation projects, the supervisor or project manager is responsible for arranging for testing to determine if asbestos-containing building materials are present in the work area and, if so, whether it will be impacted by the planned work. When appropriate, asbestos abatement is performed before the project proceeds.


EHS Asbestos-Related Services

EHS offers services for identifying asbestos-containing materials, prior to construction or maintenance activities that may disturb asbestos, air sampling in areas where friable (easily crumbled by hand pressure) asbestos is known to exist, and personal and area air sampling where there is a potential for exposure. We also offer Asbestos Awareness Training for employees who may come in contact with asbestos-containing materials as part of their job (e.g., maintenance workers, Building Services employees, etc.).