Asbestos containing materials (ACM) are found in thousands of building products making up homes, commercial buildings and industrial work places. Having ACM within a building does not mean that there is an immediate risk. While asbestos can cause a variety of serious health problems, it is only a problem when the fibers become airborne and are breathed into the lungs.
In order to determine whether asbestos may be a problem in any given building, there are different services that may be helpful.
Asbestos Surveys & Inspections
An asbestos building inspection (sometimes called a survey) involves taking samples of building materials and having them analyzed for asbestos fibers. Any material that contains greater than 1% asbestos fibers is considered to be an Asbestos Containing Material (ACM). These materials must be carefully handled following appropriate regulations to ensure that building occupants are not exposed. ETC offers the following types of building surveys:
- AHERA Building Inspection
- OSHA Occupancy Inspection
- Asbestos Demolition Inspection
- Residential Home Inspection
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requires all schools to inspect their buildings for ACM and make sure that it is properly handled to protect the children and staff in attendance. While this regulation is only legally required for schools, it represents the most comprehensive form of inspection and is often followed for asbestos inspections in other types of buildings.
Separately from AHERA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that building owners (in public and commercial buildings) provide information regarding asbestos (presence, locations and quantities) to their employees, occupants and in-coming contractors. In most cases, this requires an asbestos inspection to ensure compliance. Similar to schools, this regulation attempts to ensure that building occupants are not exposed to unsafe levels of asbestos fibers in the air.
Federal and State regulations require that prior to demolishing a building (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.), all existing asbestos materials be identified and removed. Although some materials are allowed to remain in-place during demolition, most must be removed and the penalties for non-compliance are very high.
Often completed as part of a home purchase or prior to beginning home renovations. This inspection identifies what ACM may exist within a home and what condition it is in. To provide a complete picture as to the ACM conditions within the home, many homeowners also add asbestos air monitoring to ensure their family is not being exposed to asbestos fibers.
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Asbestos Air Monitoring
Going hand and hand with the surveys, facility owners and operators are also required to ensure that employees or occupants of their buildings are not exposed to unsafe levels of airborne asbestos. Allowable fiber levels as defined by the regulatory agencies and various standards exist for different facilities. Some types of possible asbestos air monitoring include:
Provides the basic daily level of fibers in the air. Useful for ensuring that employees are below regulated levels and that asbestos has not been improperly disturbed within the building.
This is sampling conducted after asbestos has been removed. These samples taken in the area of removal ensure that the area / building is safe to reoccupy.
This sampling is conducted daily while asbestos abatement operations are being conducted. Additionally, ETC verifies that the contractor is complying with the project specifications and all applicable regulatory requirements. This allows the building owner to provide documentation to occupants and / or employees that the asbestos removal operation is not exposing them to asbestos fibers. For these projects, ETC provides a comprehensive report detailing all on-site activities and sampling results. Daily sampling includes performing clearance sampling.
Although usually reserved for other types of exposure (lead, cadmium, etc.), some types of asbestos removal operations (of non-friable asbestos only) allow the contractor to perform initial sampling over two (2) days and demonstrate that the removal employee’s exposure is very low. If the results are acceptably low, the contractor may then discontinue monitoring for the duration of the project.
ETC also provides a variety of other types of asbestos monitoring including TEM sampling, SEM sampling, personnel sampling, etc. for unique and special projects. ETC provides the highest quality asbestos analytical data by following strict Quality Assurance / Quality Control Procedures (QA/QC). Our QA/QC program meets and surpasses all EPA, OSHA and other regulatory requirements.
Asbestos Specification Development
If asbestos is found within a building and needs to be removed for occupancy, renovation or demolition reasons, it is often appropriate to develop removal specifications to ensure any asbestos work is performed properly by competent firms.
If requested, ETC will prepare a complete and detailed set of specifications. These specifications will be prepared by a professional specification writer and will assure competitive bids from contractors and detail the methods in which the project will be completed. ETC can also assist or manage the bid review and contractor selection process.
Airborne asbestos contamination in buildings is a significant environmental problem. It has been determined and documented that inhalation of significant quantities of airborne asbestos fibers over an extended period of time can have serious health affects. In order to assess any potential health risks within a building, it is necessary to conduct a survey of the building to identify and locate any friable or non-friable asbestos-containing materials (ACM) that may be located within it.
If and when ACM is located within a building, the ACM must then be evaluated and assessed to determine whether any immediate health hazards are presented to the building occupants. It must be noted that the presence of asbestos in a building does not necessarily mean that the health of the building occupants is endangered. As long as an ACM remains intact (in good condition and is not disturbed, damaged, or mutilated) exposure of asbestos fibers to the air is unlikely.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the standard for asbestos surveys in the AHERA regulations (40 CFR Part 763) which required surveys of all school buildings in the United States. These regulations were specific regarding survey techniques, number of samples required and certification of inspectors. These same regulations were modified and increased when AHERA was reauthorized under ASHARA. The ASHARA reauthorization also expanded the AHERA requirements to certify inspectors performing surveys in all public and commercial buildings.
In addition to the EPA regulations, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) has also passed regulations affecting the performance of asbestos surveys in buildings. According to current OSHA regulations (20 CFR 1926.1101), building owners must inform occupants of the location, quantity and condition of confirmed or assumed asbestos containing materials within all public and commercial facilities.
Further still, the State of Michigan has adapted its own regulations, Michigan Act 135, which is the Asbestos Abatement Contractors Licensing Act. Act 135 provides guidance within the abatement field while not being exactly lockstep with the federal regulations.