Asbestos is a term for a group of naturally occurring minerals. These minerals are unique in that their molecular structure is fibrous in nature. This particular quality made asbestos minerals attractive to use in literally hundreds of building materials (pipe insulation, shingles, floor tile, mastics, roofing, structural steel fireproofing, etc.). Asbestos was also used as a component of spray applied textured ceilings.
Hazards of Asbestos
Asbestos is a respiratory hazard and respiratory/gastrointestinal carcinogen. Exposure to asbestos occurs when respirable fibers are released into the air and then inhaled. Since exposure occurs when asbestos is inhaled, the best way to prevent exposure is to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne.
Asbestos containing materials are therefore divided into two categories: friable and non-friable. Friable means that a material is able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure. Asbestos containing materials that are friable, by their nature, have a much greater tendency to release fibers. They require specific control measures to prevent releasing fibers into the air. Conversely, non-friable asbestos containing materials, by their nature, do not want to give up their fibers into the air. This class of materials must be mechanically impacted (power tools such as sanders, drills, chippers, saws, etc.) to release fibers. Asbestos containing textured ceiling materials are a friable material.
The university's policy on asbestos containing materials is "management in place." Utilizing an Asbestos Operations and Maintenance Plan, the university maintains its asbestos containing materials in good condition such that they do not pose a hazard to building occupants or the public. When asbestos materials can no longer be maintained in good condition, they are repaired or removed. There are several management practices (outlined below) that the university uses to make sure asbestos containing textured ceilings do not pose a hazard to building occupants.
First, asbestos containing ceiling materials that are easily accessible to building occupants or that have been subject to renovation activities have been encapsulated. This is achieved by spray applying a latex, water based paint to the ceiling texture. In most cases, there have been several layers of paint applied to the ceiling material over the years. This encapsulation serves to seal the asbestos containing texture, prevents air erosion and fiber/particle shedding, provides a barrier between the material and the building occupants, and makes the material capable of withstanding light contact without resulting in damage.
Second, we endeavor to make sure that the occupants of university buildings with asbestos ceiling materials are informed of the presence of asbestos ceiling materials. Since these occupants are in the building every day, they are the quickest source of information on changes in the condition of asbestos containing ceiling materials. In addition, maintenance of the ceiling materials in good condition depends on the cooperation of building occupants (to prevent impact or damage to the ceiling material by occupants).
Third, most of the Facilities Management, Residence Life, Student Union, and CCIT personnel have been through an Asbestos Awareness class because these employees, through the course of their daily activities have the greatest potential to impact or come into contact with asbestos containing materials. The awareness class covers different types of asbestos containing materials, where these materials are located, and appropriate actions if they find damaged asbestos materials or need to have asbestos removed for their work. Since these employees are out in the buildings every day, they (like building occupants) are also a great source of information on the state of asbestos materials in university buildings and keep Risk Management informed of areas that need repair or abatement.
Fourth, the Department of Risk Management Services periodically inspects all the textured ceilings to make sure they are being maintained in good condition. Even those areas where there have been no reports of damage are inspected and appropriate response actions (continued maintenance, repair, re-encapsulation, or removal) are ordered.
How to Safety Co-Exists with Asbestos-Textured Ceilings
DO NOT "IMPACT" THE CEILING
- Don't pin, hang, tape or otherwise attach anything to the ceiling.
- Keep storage well below the ceiling (at least 12") to prevent contact.
- Take care to avoid touching the ceiling when moving equipment around.
DO NOT LET OTHERS IMPACT THE CEILING
- Discourage other occupants from doing things that could damage the ceiling material.
- Remind maintenance personnel working in the area of the presence of asbestos ceiling material.
REPORT ANY IMPACT OR DAMAGE TO RISK MANAGEMENT (621-1790) IMMEDIATELY
- Water leaks, delamination (ceiling material peeling off of the surface), scrapes, gouges, etc. need to be repaired immediately.
- Outside contractors are usually not as well informed about asbestos - keep an eye on them or report their activities to Risk Management Services.