Activities around Asbestos
Asbestos is a general name for a group of naturally-occurring minerals composed of small fibers. It is common in many building materials. Airborne asbestos contamination in buildings can be a significant environmental problem.
Various diseases have been associated with industrial exposure to asbestos fibers, and the extensive use of asbestos in building materials has raised some concern about exposure in non-industrial settings. In general, however, airborne asbestos levels in buildings are much lower than those in industrial workplaces that involve asbestos.
The presence of asbestos in a building does not mean that the health of building occupants is endangered. As long as asbestos-containing materials (ACM) remain in good condition and are not disturbed or damaged, exposure is unlikely. Building maintenance, repair, renovation, or other activities can lead to fiber release.
You should become familiar with the types of materials in your buildings that could contain asbestos. Three main categories of asbestos-containing building materials have been identified by the EPA:
Only trained, certified people should handle or remove asbestos-containing materials. If you have any questions about whether a material may contain asbestos, contact the EHS office. (back to top)
Surfacing Materials (sprayed or troweled on) - used for
decorative, acoustical, or fireproofing purposes.
Examples include plaster and fireproofing insulation.
Sprayed-on fireproofing generally appears fluffy and crumbly, while
sprayed- or troweled-on finishes are generally cement-like, but may
also be crumbly.
- Thermal System Insulation - insulation 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 (block, batt, and blanket), gaskets, and "muds."
- Miscellaneous Materials - other products and materials such
as floor tile, sheet flooring, adhesive mastic, ceiling tiles, concrete
pipe, and roofing felt.
Activities around Asbestos-Containing Materials
- Avoid touching or disturbing asbestos materials on walls, ceilings, pipes, or boilers. Asbestos fibers may be released when those materials are disturbed.
- Do not drill holes in asbestos materials.
- Do not hang plants or anything else from ceilings covered
with asbestos materials.
Do not pin or hang pictures on walls covered with asbestos
Do not sand asbestos floor tiles or backing material. Use only
low-speed buffing and burnishing methods.
Do not damage asbestos materials while moving furniture, etc.
Do not disturb asbestos material when changing light bulbs,
Do not allow curtains, drapes, or dividers to damage asbestos
materials. (back to top)
Improper cleaning practices in rooms containing friable (easily crumbled) asbestos materials can stir up asbestos fibers. Rooms that do not have friable asbestos materials can be cleaned without special precautions. In rooms that have asbestos materials on walls, ceilings, or pipes,
- Do not dust walls or surfaces containing asbestos dust with a
brush - dust instead with a damp cloth.
- Do not dry sweep floors - instead use a wet mop.
Do not use an ordinary vacuum to clean up asbestos debris -
instead use a special High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum.
Do not brush or sweep ceilings and walls covered with
asbestos materials - avoid touching or disturbing these areas. (back to top)
- Take care when doing routine maintenance jobs around asbestos materials.
Do not remove ceiling tiles below asbestos materials
Do not attempt to repair damaged asbestos materials
Promptly report potential asbestos debris or damaged
asbestos materials that you see to your supervisor (e.g. damaged
pipe insulation, loose floor tiles). (back to top)
Know where the asbestos is in your building If you find materials that could contain asbestos, notify your supervisor. The materials may already have been tested or, if not, could be sampled and tested Report damaged asbestos materials to your supervisor.
If you see improper cleaning or maintenance activities being done, see that they are stopped and contact your supervisor When in doubt, ask. (back to top)
Last reviewed by Frank H, Lankewicz, Director of EHS, on 6-12-2000.