The University of Arizona

Risk Management Services




Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment. Asbestos deposits are found throughout the world and it is still mined in Australia, Canada, South Africa and the former Soviet Union. It differs from other minerals in its crystal development, which are long, thin fibers. These fibers are very strong and resistant to heat and chemicals. For these reasons asbestos was added to many older building materials including structural fireproofing, insulation on pipes and ducts, acoustical decorative ceilings, flooring, mastics and roofing materials. These types of building materials are presumed to contain asbestos if installed before 1980, unless testing has proven otherwise.

When left intact and undisturbed, these materials do not pose a health risk to building occupants. There is a potential for exposure only when the material becomes damaged to the extent that asbestos fibers become airborne and are inhaled. Asbestos is more likely to release fibers when it is friable. The term friable means the material can be easily crumbled by hand pressure. If powdered or friable forms of asbestos are disturbed and become airborne, an inhalation hazard may result. In non-friable materials like floor tile, laboratory cabinet tops, and roofing materials, the asbestos fibers are tightly bound in a matrix, which prevents the release of fibers to the environment unless the material is abraded, sanded or sawed.

If exposed to asbestos, several factors may influence whether harmful health effects will occur. These factors include the dose (how much), the duration (how long), and whether or not you smoke. Generally, adverse health effects from asbestos are the result of long term exposure to high concentration of airborne fibers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), airborne asbestos levels in buildings are typically very much lower than those identified in industrial work places where asbestos health effects have been observed. People who have been exposed to asbestos and are also exposed to cigarette smoke, have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than someone who does not smoke.

Asbestos Facts

It is not necessary to remove all asbestos containing materials from a building to assure a safe workplace. EPA recommends a practical approach that protects the health of building occupants. This approach includes locating and identifying asbestos materials in buildings, and proper management of the material.

The following summarizes the five major facts that EPA has presented in congressional testimony.

Asbestos at the University of Arizona

When intact and undisturbed, asbestos building materials do not pose a health risk for building occupants. Damaged asbestos containing materials should be reported to Frank Perez, Risk Management Services at 626-8739. Specially trained staff are available to visit the area, determine if a suspect material contains asbestos, and to perform a hazard assessment. To avoid asbestos exposure, never attempt to handle damaged asbestos.

Risk Management Services provides asbestos management and abatement oversight services. All work involving removal, repair, maintenance or cleanup of asbestos containing material is conducted by certified workers in accordance with OSHA, EPA, state and local regulations. Adherence to these regulations is important to assure protection of workers, building occupants and the environment.

Asbestos Awareness Training is provided for Facilities Management (FM) Maintenance Services, FM Custodial Services, FM Grounds & Labor, Residence Life Custodial Services, Residence Life Maintenance, Park Student Union Maintenance and CCIT. Should any university group or department wish, an informational class on asbestos can be provided by RMS. For additional information about the U of A's asbestos polices and services, or questions concerning asbestos in university buildings please contact Frank Perez at 626-8739 or

Types and Locations of Asbestos Used at the U of A

(This information is based on surveys done in the early 90's. The survey did not include many buildings off campus and and does not include any newly acquired buildings since the survey)

THERMAL SYSTEMS INSULATION (pipe insulation) exists in the following buildings:

This material should be wrapped in a canvas or other material and is commonly found on elbows, valves and other irregular shapes, as well as straight runs of pipe. When in good condition, this material is not friable and not a hazard. However, water/steam leaks, humidity and repairs to pipes/valves can damage the covering on this material and sometimes requires the removal of the piping insulation.

If there is a hard, solid insulation material between you and the work you need to perform, assume it is asbestos until it is proven otherwise. Also if pipe insulation appears damaged, contact Risk Management for assessment.

ACOUSTICAL/DECORATIVE CEILINGS exist in the following buildings:

This material looks fluffy, (like popcorn), is very friable, (unless it has been encapsulated), but is in generally good condition. There is no hazard in performing work near asbestos ceiling material, provided the ceiling material is not disturbed by the work being performed. When these asbestos materials cannot be maintained in good condition they are repaired or removed.

STRUCTURAL FIREPROOFING exists in the following buildings:

This material also looks fluffy, (like popcorn), but is more like a cement. It is also in very good condition and should not need to be disturbed. However, there is overspray on HVAC and electrical equipment. There is not a hazard in performing work around asbestos fireproofing, provided the fireproofing material is not disturbed by the work being performed. Structural fireproofing overspray above drop down ceilings is sometimes removed because of renovations and maintenance in buildings.

Prior to working above the dropped ceiling in areas where asbestos fireproofing exists contact Risk Management to have ceiling tiles vacuumed before accessing areas.

Found on many of the buildings on the University campus. All varieties of roofing systems and roofing materials can contain asbestos. These include but are not limited to: shingles, rolled roofing, felts, tar, pitch, caulk, patch materials and silver flashing paint. There is no hazard performing work on or around asbestos containing roofing provided the roofing is not disturbed by the work being performed. To date, there has not been a comprehensive survey of buildings that contain asbestos roofing. There are times when roofing must be repaired or removed because of leaks or because a building is being demolished.

Found in many of the buildings on the University campus. There is no hazard performing work on or around asbestos containing flooring provided the flooring is not drilled, sanded or scraped. All nine inch by nine inch tiles are assumed to contain asbestos and many twelve inch by twelve inch tiles also contain asbestos. Asbestos containing tiles are oftentimes removed because of building renovation, demolition or because the tiles become damaged or worn.