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What is Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral mined from the earth. It was used in materials because of its great tensile strength and heat resistant properties. When disturbed the arrow-like fibers can be released into the air and are dangerous because inhaling asbestos fibers has been found to cause cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Due to the health risks associated with asbestos there are federal, state and county regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have regulations that apply to asbestos with severe penalties if not followed. The EPA regulations specify work practices for asbestos to be followed during demolitions and renovations and OSHA requires that no employee is exposed to any asbestos above the permissible exposure level. Failure to follow the regulations can result in fines, license revocation and in some cases incarceration.

Sampling for asbestos requires a certified asbestos inspector identifying all potential materials that may contain asbestos in the areas for renovation or demolition. Using personal protective equipment such as a respirator, the inspector collects samples and submits them to an accredited laboratory for analysis using polarized light microscopy. Once the results are generated, a report is issued interpreting the results with reference to the documented regulations.

A common misconception regarding potential exposure to asbestos is based on the age of the building. The regulations require an asbestos survey prior to demolition or renovation of a building regardless of construction date. Asbestos is still mined in the United States, often shipped overseas and used in building materials which are then shipped back to the United States as new products. Proof of an asbestos survey is frequently requested by county inspectors prior to issue of permits for construction activities.

By Simon Hahessy | Posted in Asbestos Testing