Risk Management Services

A Unit of the Business Affairs Division

Asbestos

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.

For any additional questions or comments please contact Frank Perez at (520) 954-9757 or email.