Think asbestos problems are a thing of the past? Think again! Asbestos is still very much an active building material used in the United States. It might even be present in your building.
Wait, isn’t asbestos banned in the United States? Surprisingly, no! While the EPA originally banned asbestos in 1989, the ban was overturned in 1991. Some paper products and flooring felt, as well as any new uses of asbestos, remain banned. Today, most asbestos use in the U.S. is from imported products, including Canada, Mexico and China. Your building may have new construction, but if you don’t know where your materials were sourced, you might have more asbestos than you know.
Regardless of building age, both the EPA and OSHA require the identification of asbestos. So if you’re planning a renovation or demolition of any kind (including restoration for water damage, flood and fire) one of the first things you need do is a test to confirm whether or not asbestos is present in the location where you’re working. The EPA’s National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) has established regulations under the Clean Air Act that require “a thorough inspection where the demolition or renovation will occur.”
Below are the some of the applicable citations from EPA and OSHA:
EPA 40 CFT 61, Subpart M, Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants:
(a) Applicability. To determine which requirements of paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section apply to the owner or operator of a demolition or renovation activity and prior to the commencement of the demolition or renovation,, thoroughly inspect the affected facility or part of the facility where the demolition or renovation operation will occur for the presence of asbestos, including Category I and Category II not friable ACM.
OSHA 29 CFR 1926, 1101, Construction Standard for Asbestos:
(k)(2)(i) Before work subject to this standard is begun, building and facility owners shall determine the presence, location, and quantity of ACM and/or PACM at the work site pursuant to paragraph (k)(1)(i) of this section.
(k)(3)(i) Before work in areas containing ACM and PACM is begun; employers shall identify the presence, location, and quantity of ACM, and/or PACM therein pursuant to paragraph (k)(1)(i) of this section.
Given that asbestos is a potentially lethal substance and that it is regulated at the national, state and local level, serious fines could be levied against building owners and managers who do not follow the dictates as to how demolition, renovation and asbestos removal (if found) are conducted. Neither the EPA nor OSHA reference building age, it is not a determining factor in whether not an asbestos inspection is required. And both EPA and OSHA put the burden of proof on both the owner and employer.
When it comes to asbestos, consider your building guilty until proven innocent.