Asbestos Is Regulated by Both EPA and OSHA

Asbestos is a regulated cancer-causing material with no known safe exposure level. It is still prevalent in places where it was used decades ago to insulate buildings and pipes, as well as in roofing shingles, fire-resistant materials, vinyl flooring, gaskets, and automobile brakes and clutches. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), defines “asbestos-containing materials” as containing more than 1 percent by weight of the any of the following:

  • Chrysotile (serpentine);
  • Crocidolite (riebeckite);
  • Amosite (cummingtonite/grunerite);
  • Anthophyllite;
  • Tremolite; and
  • Actinolite.

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Today, asbestos is regulated at the federal level by several laws passed to minimize the risk of human health problems from airborne (or friable) asbestos including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. These laws and associated regulations dictate a range of compliance requirements from training workers exposed to asbestos to permitting and disposal of asbestos materials. Many of the regulations were promulgated to control how asbestos-containing materials are handled and managed during the renovation or demolition of buildings, including schools and other public and commercial buildings.

Perhaps the most well-known regulations are those passed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which include two regulations pertaining to handling asbestos in the workplace. These are the primary regulations concerning the health and safety of workers exposed to asbestos on the job:

  • Asbestos General Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1001 – Specifies asbestos permissible exposure limits, engineering controls, worker training, labeling, respiratory protection, and disposal of asbestos-containing waste.
  • Asbestos Construction Standard, 29 CFR 1926.1101 – Covers construction work involving asbestos, including work practices during demolition and renovation, worker training, disposal of asbestos waste, and specification of permissible exposure limits.

These two primary asbestos health and safety standards cover almost every asbestos scenario (except federal and state workers as defined below) and often take center stage in compliance programs. But there are other regulations to be concerned about as well, such as those passed by the EPA which are especially relevant to workers performing asbestos-related activities in schools and public and commercial buildings. These laws and regulations cover renovation and demolition and include:

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA) – Resulted in EPA creating the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule covering all private and public nonprofit schools and requiring training for asbestos workers.

The Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act of 1990 (ASHARA) – Increased the amount of asbestos training required by the AHERA.

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Clean Air Act (CAA) – National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Asbestos 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M – Covers asbestos work practices during demolition or renovations in most buildings, structures and installations as well as certain manufacturing and fabricating operations. The regulation includes:

  • 40 CFR §61.145 – Standard for demolition and renovation
  • 40 CFR §61.150 – Standard for waste disposal for manufacturing, fabricating, demolition, renovation, and spraying operations

The Asbestos Worker Protection Rule – 40 CFR 763 Subpart G – Protects “certain state and local government employees who are not protected by the Asbestos Standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).”

The environmental asbestos regulations are as important as OSHA regulations and when overlooked or ignored, can result in violations and fines for lax reporting, recordkeeping, handling, management, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. Tomorrow we take a closer look at some of these requirements covering renovations and demolitions.

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