Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals composed of small bundles of fibers. The word asbestos is derived from a Greek word meaning unquenchable or indestructible. Throughout history, asbestos minerals have been found, and mined from the earth around the world.
Asbestos has been used in literally thousands of building materials as well as other products. It gained wide spread use because it is plentiful, readily available, and low in cost. Its unique properties—fire resistance, high tensile strength, poor heat and electrical conductivity, and impervious to chemical attacks—proved well suited for many uses in the construction trade.
Friable vs. Non Friable ACM
Asbestos containing materials (ACM) can be classified into two forms: friable and non-friable. Friable ACM contains more than 1% asbestos and can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry. Friable ACM is thought to release fibers in the air more readily than non-friable ACM; however, several types of non-friable ACM can also release fibers if improperly disturbed.
Categories Of Asbestos Containing Building Materials
EPA categorizes ACM’s into three main categories:
Surfacing materials-(sprayed or toweled on) were used for decorative, acoustical, and fireproofing purposes. SIUC has a few buildings that contain this asbestos surfacing material (e.g. Morris Library).
Thermal system insulation-was used to inhibit heat transfer or prevent condensation on pipes, boilers, tanks, ducts, and other components of plumbing or HVAC systems. Examples include pipe wraps, insulation, and “muds”. There is a substantial amount of thermal insulation in mechanical rooms, and in the tunnels connecting mechanical systems at SIUC.
Miscellaneous materials-make up the remainder of asbestos containing materials on campus. They consist of products and materials such as floor tile, sheet flooring, adhesive mastic, ceiling tiles, concrete pipe, and roofing felt. A majority of buildings at SIUC contain these miscellaneous materials such as 9x9 floor tile.
It is important to note that a building containing asbestos is not an immediate health hazard for occupants as long as it is maintained in good condition and not disturbed.
Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a concern due to the adverse health effects caused from breathing air containing its fibers. There are three diseases associated with exposure to asbestos, which are listed below.
Asbestosis-is a scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs. The scaring impairs the elasticity of the lung tissue and hampers its ability to exchange gases. This leads to inadequate oxygen intake to the blood. The disease restricts breathing leading to decreased lung volume and resistance in the airways making it difficult to breathe. Asbestosis is a slowly progressive disease with a latency period of 10- 40 years as a result from relatively high levels of airborne asbestos over a period of time (e.g. asbestos break shoe factory).
Lung Cancer-is a malignant tumor of the bronchi covering. The tumor grows through surrounding tissue invading and often obstructing air passages. The time between exposure to asbestos and the occurrence of lung cancer is typically 20 years.
Mesothelioma-is a cancer of the mesothelium, the lining of the chest or the abdominal wall. It is considered to be a “marker” disease for asbestos exposure. Early stages are associated with only a few symptoms. By the time it is diagnosed, it is usually fatal.
There is a synergistic relationship between asbestos related diseases and smoking. In other words, if a person smokes and is exposed to airborne asbestos fibers chances of contracting an asbestos related disease is 50- 90 times greater.
Asbestos Abatement Specialist Responsibilities
Due to the large amount of asbestos on campus and numerous state and federal regulatory requirements, the Center for Environmental Health and Safety (CEHS) has employed an Asbestos Abatement Specialist. This specialist is a licensed project manager, inspector, air sampling professional, and in charge of managing the asbestos activities on campus. Listed below is a summary of CEHS’ asbestos compliance program as coordinated by the Asbestos Abatement Specialist.
Prior to the start of an abatement project, proper regulatory agencies must be notified. The Asbestos Abatement Specialist is responsible for notifying the following agencies:
Illinois Department of Public Health must be notified two days prior to abatement projects between 3 square/ 3 linear to 160 square/ 260 linear feet.
Environmental Protection Agency requires a 10-day notification for projects ranging in size over 160 square/ 260 linear feet.
It is required under EPA’S National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) that a licensed asbestos inspector prior to demolition and renovation activities inspects buildings.
Physical Plant Engineering Services (PPES) sends a copy of the General Improvement Request (GIR) and scope of work to Facility Operations Center (FOC) where a work order is issued to CEHS requesting an asbestos inspection and directives. The Asbestos Abatement Specialist performs an inspection of the area, reviews documents, and if necessary collects bulk samples to determine if asbestos is present in that particular area. If bulk samples are collected, they are sent off to a laboratory and analyzed for asbestos content. Once all information is reviewed, a report is sent to PPES giving the results and proper directives for the inspection.
In-House Abatement Projects
There are situations on campus, which involve the removal of asbestos in order to perform routine maintenance activities. SIUC currently employs 15 asbestos workers and two asbestos supervisors who are EPA accredited and licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Prior to the start of an in-house abatement project the Asbestos Abatement Specialist reviews the work order, inspects the job site, and notifies proper regulatory agencies. Proper abatement techniques and procedures are then reviewed with the Asbestos Abatement Supervisor. The Asbestos Abatement Specialist then monitors the job throughout the entire removal process, conducts air sampling, performs inspections, and ensures that proper abatement techniques are performed and engineering controls are utilized. Guidelines are also outlined in a Standard Operating Procedures manual, which is available for review at the Grounds Department and CEHS.
OSHA requires SIUC to have a written respiratory protection program and to follow the 29 CFR 1910.134 standard. The Asbestos Abatement Specialist acts as the program administrator as required in this standard. The administrator is responsible for identifying work areas, which require workers to wear a respirator, selects the respiratory options, monitors respirator use, conducts training, arranges fit tests, administers the medical surveillance program, maintains records, and updates the program as needed. A copy of the entire program is available at the Grounds Department and CEHS.
CEHS offers an asbestos awareness-training program to Physical Plant employees. OSHA requires the training to be offered annually for employees who conduct general maintenance and custodial activities in asbestos containing buildings. The Asbestos Abatement Specialist works with Safety Officers at CEHS to provide this training.
Literature is also available upon request. CEHS has developed an Asbestos General Awareness Guide and a handout, which provides answers to the 10 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Asbestos.
Capital Development Board (CDB) Projects
CDB projects are generally large and involve using outside contractors and consultants. The Asbestos Abatement Specialist assists the Physical Plant with selecting consultants and coordinating projects.
Currently the Capital Development Board is performing inspections of every building on the SIUC campus. Each building will have a written Management Plan that will provide information on the condition, quantity, and location of asbestos containing material. The Asbestos Abatement Specialist is responsible for managing the surveys, interpreting the results, and performing six-month periodic inspections.
The Asbestos Abatement Specialist is responsible for keeping records for abatement projects, employee certifications/licenses, training, air sampling, bulk sampling, and waste manifests.
In order to remain in compliance with state and federal regulations it takes cooperation from everyone involved in the asbestos abatement process. The Center for Environmental Health and Safety will continue to provide asbestos services and manage asbestos situations.
For more information concerning asbestos issues contact Jeff Shurtz at CEHS.