The health effects of asbestos exposure have been known for over 2000 years. The ancient Greeks and Romans noted them in their texts. Asbestos is a KNOWN carcinogen. Asbestos exposure can take up to 40 years to manifest in diagnosis of asbestos related disease. Once diagnosed – asbestos related disease is 100% FATAL. It is for these reasons that the federal regulations were put in place, and it is for these reasons that the fines and/or jail time for ignoring the regulations are SEVERE.
Contrary to the belief of many: Asbestos was NOT banned in in the US in 1980 — it was REGULATED!
The government acknowledged its effects and prevalent existence in standing buildings and now regulates its removal and maintenance. Asbestos containing materials are counted as a component in over 3600 different products used in the US today – most are used in the construction industry – most are imported (from Canada & China primarily).
How asbestos is maintained, removed, transported and disposed of are the main thrust of the EPA and OSHA regulations that cover asbestos. While the EPA’s AHERA regulations cover any school from K – 12, the OSHA regulations refer to the EPA regulation to cover ANY employee that might be exposed to asbestos on the job, how the material is to be maintained and how and where it is disposed of – it also covers who can perform the maintenance and disposal as well as where and how it can be disposed.
This cross-referencing of regulations effectively means that any structure except a private single family home is covered under US asbestos regulations. Even a private home is covered if employees are present (this can be a hired contractor, plumber, etc.).
Where are today’s Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM)? There are many common sources – drywall “mud”, flooring tile, wall and ceiling textures, mastic for flooring and cove base, acoustical tiles – to name only a few. Some older insulations are ACM, as well as stuccos and roofing materials.
It takes an experienced individual to fully evaluate and locate asbestos in a structure. NO ONE can say for sure (without laboratory testing) that one product contains asbestos or doesn’t contain asbestos with a visual identification or “field” test. Individual asbestos fibers in building materials can only be detected through polarized light microscopy (PLM) or under a transmission electron microscope (TEM). The services of a fully trained and licensed consultant are the only way to properly identify, maintain and/or dispose of ACM according to federal regulations.
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