Since the 1890's, asbestos use has been expanded to hundreds of common industrial applications. However, increased environmental distribution of these products has also enlarged the size of the population exposed to asbestos. The health effects associated with occupational and non-occupational asbestos exposure, can create severe human diseases. The potential impact of these diseases has motivated public health authorities to control the use of asbestos. Ongoing federal and state programs oversee efforts to prevent environmental release, and abate existing asbestos sources.
- What is asbestos?
- How might I be exposed to asbestos fibers?
- How do asbestos fibers enter and leave the body?
- How can asbestos affect my health?
- Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to asbestos fibers?
- I have asbestos in my home. Do I need to do anything about it to protect my health?
- I am going to perform a renovation or demolition to my building. Is there anything I should know about asbestos before I begin my project?
- How do I get licensed to perform asbestos-related work in Texas?
- I do site assessment surveys. Do I need a license to inspect for asbestos?
- I need to get properly trained with respect to asbestos. Where can I receive the proper training?
- I hear that to remove floor tile or sheet vinyl flooring that I don't need a license. Is that true?
1. What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals. Mined and milled from native rock, asbestos is fibrous, thin, and strong. Chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite fibers are the most common types of asbestos minerals. However, only chrysotile, crocidolite, and amosite varieties are of industrial importance. Characteristics, like heat resistance, chemical inertness, and insulating capacity, coupled with the flexibility to be woven make asbestos suitable for use in many industrial applications.
2. How might I be exposed to asbestos fibers?
Asbestos can enter the environment from weathered natural mineral deposits and fiber releases arising from manmade asbestos products. Asbestos may be found in products like floor tiles, roof shingles, cement, and automotive brakes. Electrical, plumbing, acoustical, and structural insulation applications are also very common. Asbestos fibers are released into the air when these products are disturbed.
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3. How do asbestos fibers enter and leave the body?
Breathing asbestos-containing air into the lungs is the exposure route of greatest concern. Some of the asbestos fibers reaching the lungs are eliminated in exhaled air and others are coughed from the lungs with mucous. The fibers reaching the deepest air passages of the lungs can produce the greatest damage.
The digestive system can be exposed to asbestos fibers from drinking water and mucous cleared from the lungs. A small number of fibers may penetrate the cells that line the digestive system, but only a few will reach the bloodstream. These fibers will be released in the urine. Asbestos fibers contacting the skin rarely pass through the skin into the body.
4. How can asbestos affect my health?
Information on human health effects of asbestos comes mostly from long-term studies of people exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Asbestos workers who breathe in asbestos may develop a slow build-up of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis. This scarred tissue state impairs the ability of the lungs and heart to adequately provide oxygen to the body. This is a serious disease, and can eventually lead to disability or death in people exposed to high amounts of asbestos. Asbestos workers also have increased chances of developing two types of cancer: Lung cancer starts within the respiratory tissues, and mesothelial cancer grows from the thin membranes that surround the lung or the abdominal cavities. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma are usually fatal. These asbestos-related diseases do not appear immediately, but may develop 20 to 50 years after exposure.
The health effects from oral asbestos exposures are unclear. In some areas where the residents are exposed to asbestos fibers in the drinking water, cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine may be a greater concern. After reviewing the scientific evidence from human experience and animal testing; however, health authorities are still unsure of asbestos links to cancer in the digestive system.
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5. Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to asbestos fibers?
The most common test used to determine if you have been exposed to asbestos is a chest x-ray. The x-ray cannot detect the asbestos fibers themselves, but can detect early signs of lung disease caused by asbestos exposure. Another tool used by physicians, called a pulmonary function test, can also be useful in identifying lung capacity changes.
Periodic health examinations by a physician, including a chest x-ray and review of asbestos-based risk factors, can be effective. Asbestos risk factors include levels, frequency, and length of asbestos exposures; period of time since exposures; and smoking history. The combined impact of cigarette smoking and fiber exposures can increase the chances of asbestos-related lung diseases.
6. I have asbestos in my home. Do I need to do anything about it to protect my health?
Most of the time, no. The common materials used in home construction are floor tile, roofing and siding. These materials are very strong and don't readily crumble and release the asbestos fibers unless they are subjected to strong forces. Occasionally other materials such as pipe insulation and thermal insulation, such as batt or blown-in insulation, are used in home construction. If you determine that you have this type of material, through inspection and analysis by a properly qualified inspector and laboratory, you should seek the help of a consultant to aid you in determining what you need to do to remedy your situation. If you never have the need to disturb these materials, you may be able to leave them alone. But if you know that a needed repair or renovation will disturb the material, you may want to start planning with your consultant to abate the asbestos during the project.
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7. I am going to perform a renovation or demolition to my building. Is there anything I should know about asbestos before I begin my project?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) requires that you perform a survey to determine the presence of asbestos in your building before doing a renovation or demolition. You must also notify before you start such a project. In Texas you must notify the Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas also has rules that pertain to public buildings that require similar notification as the NESHAP and further requirements such as licensed persons to perform the survey and to remove the asbestos.
8. How do I get licensed to perform asbestos-related work in Texas?
We can send you an application package. Licenses are required to perform asbestos-related work in public buildings in Texas for Contractors, Supervisors, Workers, Consultants, Management Planners, Inspectors, Air Monitors, Laboratories, Transporters, and Training Providers.
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9. I do site assessment surveys. Do I need a license to inspect for asbestos?
Yes. Regardless of the number of samples that you take during your survey, any sample for asbestos in a public building requires a license.
10. I need to get properly trained with respect to asbestos. Where can I receive the proper training?
We have a list of all licensed trainers in Texas. Any licensed trainer in Texas can give you the training you require under the revised Model Accreditation Plan (MAP) or that required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration, such as that required in 29 CFR 1926.1101. In April 1994 the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Revised Model Accreditation Plan (MAP) became effective. It covers training requirements for persons working with asbestos in public and commercial buildings. Most occupational exposure to asbestos is covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and requires training that meets the same criteria as the revised MAP. Since Texas asbestos law covers training requirements in public buildings and requires trainers to meet the EPA revised MAP, this is the best training for most circumstances.
11. I hear that to remove floor tile or sheet vinyl flooring that I don't need a license. Is that true?
Yes. The Texas Asbestos Health Protection Rules (TAHPR) allow a person who has had the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) guidelines training to use those guidelines for flooring removal in leu of a license. The guidelines must be followed strictly. Also, before beginning any removal, the flooring material must be sampled by a licensed inspector to determine the presence of asbestos per TAHPR and that the inspector makes an assessment per the revised Model Accreditation Plan as to whether the flooring can be removed properly by the RFCI guidelines, call the Resilient Floor Covering Institute at (301) 340-8580.
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