During National Asbestos Disease Awareness Week (April 1-7), we’ll be cross-posting a piece every day from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. Today’s post includes two parts.

ASBESTOS IN THE HOME
By J. Brent Kynoch, Managing Director, Environmental Information Association; cross-posted from Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Generally speaking, homes that were built prior to 1980 are more likely to have asbestos containing products than newer homes.  Asbestos use in home building materials was common from the early 1900’s through the 1970’s.  Several uses of asbestos were banned in the late 1970’s, however, there are still many uses of asbestos that have not been banned.  For this reason, owners of homes built even after 1980 should exercise caution and care when handling or disturbing potential asbestos-containing products in their homes.

Where can asbestos be found in homes?
The most likely asbestos containing materials inside and outside homes are:

• Acoustical ceiling material (popcorn ceiling);
• Pipe, boiler and water heater insulation;
• Vermiculite insulation in attics and walls;
• Vinyl floor tile and linoleum sheet flooring, including the mastics used;
• Transite or cement board products used around furnaces and as ductwork;
• Gaskets on doors of boilers, furnaces and wood/coal stoves;
• Joint compound used in finishing drywall;
• Textured paint;
• Glazing and caulk around windows;
• Asbestos cement roof tiles, shingles and siding.

Uses of asbestos that have not been banned and might be found even in homes built after 1980:

• Vinyl floor tile, and linoleum sheet flooring, including the mastics used;
• Joint compound used in finishing drywall;
• Vermiculite insulation in attics and walls.

What to do if you suspect asbestos in your home?
Asbestos is only dangerous when it becomes airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs.  So, most products should be left alone, since disturbance can release asbestos fibers.  Generally, asbestos in good condition will not release asbestos fibers.  Look for signs of wear, abrasion, water damage or damage from vibration or air erosion.  If you intend to remove suspect asbestos containing materials as a part of a renovation, or to replace damaged materials, a sample of the material should be collected and submitted to an accredited laboratory for analysis.

How to sample suspect materials for asbestos?
DO NOT sample suspect materials yourself.  The action of collecting a sample of the material releases asbestos fibers that can be inhaled into the lungs.  Locate a qualified, licensed asbestos inspector to collect the samples.  The inspector will submit the samples to an accredited laboratory for analysis and will provide the results back to you along with recommendations on how to treat the material.  EIA can provide the names of licensed asbestos inspectors in your area.  1-888-343-4342.

Hiring an asbestos abatement contractor
Asbestos-containing materials should be disturbed and/or removed only by qualified, licensed asbestos abatement contractors.  All 50 states and the District of Columbia provide licensing programs for asbestos abatement contractors and some local jurisdictions require additional licensing.  EIA can prvide the names of licensed asbestos contractors in your area.  1-888-343-4342.

J. Brent Kynoch is the President of Kynoch Environmental Management, Inc, an environmental engineering and industrial hygiene firm, and Managing Director of the Environmental Information Association.

ASBESTOS HAZARD EMERGENCY RESPONSE ACT (AHERA)
By Tom Laubenthal, Technical Director, Environmental Institute; cross-posted from Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA, 40 CFR Part 763) became law in 1986 and it applies to private and public non-profit elementary and secondary schools or Local Education Agencies (LEA, often as a county school system). The purpose of AHERA is to identify and manage asbestos in schools and it is enforced by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). AHERA requires all LEAs to inspect for asbestos containing building materials (ACBM) and perform re-inspections every three years. The schools are required to develop a Management Plan to manage the asbestos in each school building. Other requirements include:

  • Annually notify parents and staff regarding the Management Plan availability
  • Provide asbestos awareness training to school staff members,
  • Implement timely response actions when ACBM is found to be damaged.
  • Assign and train a designated person to ensure compliance with AHERA requirements.
  • Conduct periodic surveillance to monitor the physical condition of ACBM present.
  • Use only trained and accredited individuals for asbestos-related activities.
  • AHERA does not require asbestos removal in schools; it’s an asbestos identification, communication and management regulation. Removal is only required when building renovation or demolition occurs.

For more information, visit the EPA’s web site: “Asbestos” and “Asbestos in Schools”

Tom Laubenthal is Technical Director of the Environmental Institute and an active member of the Environmental Information Association.