I attended Access Training’s Asbestos Building Inspector refresher course on May 18, 2016. Asbestos inspectors are required to attend refresher courses annually to maintain their certificates. The course highlights the source of asbestos, types of asbestos, health concerns related to asbestos exposure, requirements of the building survey, as well as any updates or news in the asbestos abatement industry. I have been a building inspector for over 10 years and each year it astonishes me the number of products that still test positive for asbestos- even though the US government banished the mining and production of asbestos products in the US in 1980.
In 1973, under the EPA’s Clean Air Act, most spray-applied asbestos products were banned for fireproofing and insulating purposes. And in 1989, the EPA issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, which hoped to impose a full ban on the manufacturing, importation, processing and sale of asbestos-containing products.
But, in 1991, asbestos industry supporters challenged and overturned the ban in a landmark lawsuit: Corrosion Proof Fittings v. the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the case resulted in several small victories for asbestos regulation, the EPA ultimately failed to put an end to asbestos use.
As a result of the Court’s decision, the following specific asbestos-containing products remain banned: flooring felt, rollboard, and corrugated, commercial, or specialty paper. In addition, the regulation continues to ban the use of asbestos in products that have not historically contained asbestos, otherwise referred to as “new uses” of asbestos. What is not on the banned list of asbestos-containing products are items such as floor tile, roofing materials, brake pads etc.
This year, at the Asbestos Building Inspector Refresher Course, I learned that floor tile, sheet rock, and drywall joint compound purchased at huge home improvement retailers may still contain >1% asbestos. Even scarier, some inexpensive brands of children’s crayons have been found to contain asbestos. The reason, apparently, is that products sold in the US that contain limestone and talc may still have asbestos. In fact, there are still active asbestos mines in Russia. What can we do as consumers to protect our families? Read labels, watch from where products are imported, and have your building materials sampled prior to renovations or demolitions.
Case in point: TTI was recently asked to perform an asbestos building survey recently for a client. TTI was informed by the client that an abatement of the asbestos-containing floor tiles was completed as part of a renovation performed in 2003. As part of the 2003 renovations, new 12” floor tiles were installed in the hallways of the building were the 9” asbestos floor tiles were removed. As part of TTI’s recent asbestos survey, TTI sampled the “new 12” floor tiles” and they came back containing 5% asbestos.
As noted before, any material containing greater than 1% asbestos is considered an asbestos containing material. While there is no need to do anything with the new tiles at this time, in the future if there is any further renovation or demolition the floor tiles must now be handled as asbestos containing material.
The lessons to be learned here are:
- ALWAYS sample support materials being impacted as part of a renovation/demolition
- Never assume a material is not asbestos by the year the material was installed.
- As part of a renovation, know what building materials are being specified to replace older building materials
- Hire a professional to perform the asbestos survey before the renovation/demolition starts.
Asbestos surveys are not overly costly… a survey at a moderate size house is less than $1500… which is less expensive than new carpet or paint. And buy the good crayons – Crayola has been tested safe.