Asbestos and Building Materials

There are over 3,000 products that contain asbestos to include construction related products. Homes and buildings built prior to 1980 should be presumed to contain asbestos unless otherwise tested.

Asbestos is the name of a group of naturally occurring minerals that separate into strong, very fine fibers. Serpentine rock (California’s State Rock) has Chrysotile veins which are an asbestos material. Asbestos minerals are added to increase the overall strength of the product as well as provide heat resistant capabilities.

Asbestos tends to break down into a dust of microscopic size fibers. Because of their size and shape, these tiny fibers remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and can easily penetrate body tissues after being inhaled or ingested. Because of their durability, these fibers remain in the body for many years and thereby become the cause of asbestos related diseases.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) requires an inspection and identification of asbestos on facilities that are to undergo demolition or renovation work. Materials found to contain asbestos will need to be removed prior to the start of such work.

Asbestos sampling and/or inspections are performed by trained and licensed Certified Asbestos Consultants (CAC’s) or by an Asbestos Site Surveillance Technician (SST). Surveys are generally conducted in accordance with the procedures described by the Environmental Protection Agency in 125CFR 763 guidelines to determine the presence of exposed or accessible suspect asbestos-containing materials (ACM).

A list of commonly found asbestos materials is below:

  • Acoustical ceiling material
  • 9 x 9 Floor Tile
  • 12 x 12 Floor Tile
  • Linoleum
  • Vinyl Flooring
  • Mastic
  • Base Coving
  • Blown on Fireproofing
  • Ceiling Tiles
  • Theatre Curtains
  • Stucco
  • Ducting
  • Thermal System Insulation
  • Roof Felt
  • Roof patching
  • Roof Penetration Tar
  • Roofing Layers
  • Window Putty
  • Sheetrock/Joint Compound
  • Taping Mud
  • etc.

Samples that are collected during a survey are taken to an accredited laboratory and analyzed by Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM).

There are two defining levels to keep in mind.

  • If the analysis indicates that the material contains 1% asbestos or above (≥1%), the material will need to be removed and disposed of as a hazardous material utilizing a Certified Asbestos Abatement Contractor.
  • If the analysis indicates that the material contains less than (<1%) asbestos, the material will still need to be removed by a Certified Asbestos Abatement Contractor; however, will not require disposal as a hazardous material.

Note: If the material is <1%, you can request a special analysis from the lab called a Point Count (1,000 pts.). This type of analysis will determine if the material is <0.10%. If the material is <0.10%, a certified Asbestos Contractor is not needed.

Level Regulator What is Needed
< 1% Removal, Transport and Dispose of As Hazardous Material Will still need to be removed of by an Abatement Contractor
< 0.01% None None

Categories of Asbestos

The EPA groups asbestos containing material (ACM) into three types:

1. Friable ACM – Asbestos containing materials that can reduce to powder by hand pressure such as, thermal system insulation and acoustical ceiling material.

2. Category I non-friable ACM – Asbestos containing resilient floor covers or VAT, asphalt roofing product, packing and gaskets.

3. Category II non-friable ACM – Any material, excluding Category I materials, that when dry, cannot be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure.

These categories are what an Asbestos Consultant utilizes to determine how the materials found on a survey are to be handled.

Asbestos Myths

Myth 1: If you have 100 square fee or less of material, anyone can remove it.

The 100 sq. ft. rule applies only to notification. If the quantity of material that you are removing and disposing is less than 100 square feet, you will not need to notify your local Air Quality Management District; however, all removal requirements still apply.

Myth 2: Asbestos is no longer manufactured and/or used.

Asbestos materials are still used in manufactured products in Canada and China.

In Summary

1. Asbestos was used in Building Related Materials.

2. In General, any property built prior to 1980 that is scheduled for renovation and/or demolition will need to be surveyed by a CAC or SST.

3. Samples will be analyzed by PLM and results will determine the removal and disposal requirements. These will be indicated in the final report.

4. Removal of ACM needs to be completed by a Certified Asbestos Abatement Contractor.

5. Determine how mush assistance you want from the consultant after the initial survey.

6. Document all work performed and the contractors performing them.

About the Author

Wendy L. Johnson, President of Benchmark Environmental Engineering, has been in the environmental industry since 1986 specializing in asbestos, lead and indoor air quality. Her firm, Benchmark, specializes in building inspections, environmental engineering, specialized training and contract management. Clientele include NASA-Ames, Local Cities, California Apartment Association, Property Management Firms, Architects, Contractors and others.

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