Introduction to Asbestos
WHAT IS ASBESTOS?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in certain rock formations, mined from open pit mines. Most of the asbestos used in the United States today comes from Canada. Three kinds of asbestos are most commonly found in the United States: chrysotile, “white asbestos”; amosite, “brown asbestos”; and crocidolite, “blue asbestos”.
Asbestos was called the “miracle fiber” because it could be used in so many different products. Asbestos was not expensive, easy to work with, and it was abundant. The fibers were wonderful because they didn’t burn and didn’t conduct heat and electricity. The fibers were durable, strong, flexible, and resistant to wear. More than 3000 different products were made using asbestos. Some of these included pipe insulation, sprayed-on fireproofing, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, brake pads, clutch facings, plasters, mastics, adhesives, gaskets, packing materials for valves, asbestos gloves, siding shingles, roofing materials, firemen’s clothing, and thousands more products.
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WHY ARE WE CONCERNED ABOUT ASBESTOS?
In the 1960′s evidence began to emerge showing that certain diseases were prevalent among asbestos workers. These were the workers who worked in the mills, manufacturing facilities, shipyards, etc. These people had, for the most part, several years of heavy exposures to the airborne fibers. In other words, they were at high risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
These diseases are asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and digestive system cancers. Fibers may be inhaled (breathed in) or ingested. By far the more important source of exposure is inhalation of the fibers. The fibers are very small and can remain in the air for several hours. The ones that can be inhaled deep into the lung are too small to see and have no odour. Asbestosis (not a cancer) is a chronic lung condition where the lungs become scarred and thickened. Breathing becomes very difficult and the disease may get worse even if the person stops working with asbestos. Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer of the lining of the lung or abdominal cavities and is always fatal in 6-18 months after diagnosis. None of the asbestos-related diseases have early warning symptoms and are usually diagnosed several years after the disease begins to develop.
WHY AREN’T WE ALL SICK?
Asbestos is everywhere in the air, soil, and water. Since asbestos exposures can result in cancer, scientists say that there is no known safe level for exposure. But we know that everyone is exposed during his life to some asbestos: it may be in the drinking water and it is in the air at very low levels. However, the asbestos-related diseases usually occur in people who have worked with fairly high levels of asbestos for a long time and who were not protected from breathing in the fibers.
WHO REGULATES ASBESTOS?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was required by the Clear Air Act to produce regulations to regulate air pollutants hazardous to health. These are called the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants. Asbestos is one of these and regulating it was delegated to the Department.
The EPA was also required under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to produce regulations about asbestos in schools. Under AHERA the schools are required to inspect their buildings for asbestos and develop a plan to manage asbestos and develop a plan to manage the asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber, once widely used in building materials for its thermal insulating properties and fire resistance. Although the removal of asbestos from school buildings is an option for schools, many schools and local education agencies have chosen to manage some asbestos-containing building materials in place.
In fact, undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally do not pose a health risk. These materials may become hazardous and pose increased risk if they are damaged, are disturbed in some manner, or deteriorate over time and release asbestos fibers into building air.
A number of building materials still in use today contain asbestos. Asbestos remains in use as an acoustic insulator, and in thermal insulation, fire proofing, roofing, flooring and other materials.
LEAVE IT TO THE PROFESSIONALS
Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant that is regulated by the state and federal governments. The State of Texas regulates how persons work with asbestos and also regulates those who train persons to work with asbestos. The EPA regulations cover four asbestos activities, the first is the removal, repair, or encapsulation of asbestos-containing materials (ACM), the second is approval of asbestos training providers, the third is regulation of persons accredited to perform asbestos-related activities, and fourth is asbestos in schools.
1 Asbestos abatement contractors- Companies that remove, repair, or encapsulate asbestos-containing materials (ACM) must be licensed to do this work and must be licensed before they do this work. The contractor must submit an application and pay a fee.
2 Asbestos training providers- Companies that provide asbestos training must submit an application and pay a fee. Course approvals are valid for one year and must be renewed annually. The following initial and review courses may be approved: worker, supervisor, inspector, management planner, project designer, foreign language worker, and operations and maintenance.
3 Accredited persons- Accredited persons who perform any of the activities for which they are trained must carry the Texas Photo Identification Card. It can be issued by a Texas-approved training provider or by the Department.
4 Asbestos in schools-Technical assistance for the public and private schools that are subject to the 1987 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). The schools are required to have their facilities inspected for asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM) and develop a management plan for handling the ACBM.
*Source is from the US EPA websiteVisit Source