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Asbestos Regulations

This blog is the second installment regarding asbestos, where we will learn about asbestos regulations and how they are enforced.

There are lots of laws on the books. You know that not everyone chooses to follow them even though some laws are in place to protect you. You can’t protect yourself if you don’t know what they are. The law is one tool for a safer and healthier environment and work place.

Congress passes laws, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) enforce regulations or standards based on those laws. OSHA and EPA have the power to levy fines for breaking their regulations. Regulations are just as strong as laws. Two Federal government agencies cover asbestos work: the EPA and OSHA. The EPA enforces laws protecting the environment. The EPA has laws about air pollution, water pollution and land pollution. OSHA enforces laws protecting workers on the job. OSHA is part of the Department of Labor.

The Environmental Protection Agency has three (3) asbestos regulations that you need to know about:

  1. AHERA (The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act)
  2. NESHAP (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants)
  3. The Worker Protection Rule

For purposes of this article, it is important to say that AHERA does not apply to commercial buildings and condominiums.  Some states and local government workers are not protected by the OSHA law. EPA’s Worker Protection Rule gives these workers the same protection as everyone else as under OSHA. Therefore, I will not expand upon the regulations that pertain to AHERA and the Worker Protection Rule.

The NESHAP regulations are found in 40 CFR, Part 61, Subpart M. NESHAP is part of the Clean Air Act. The asbestos NESHAP regulation addresses the reduction of potential exposure from asbestos for facilities undergoing renovation or demolition. The regulation provides a method for identifying asbestos containing materials and defines a process to: categorize, abate, package, label, transport and dispose of asbestos containing materials.

What determines whether a building is regulated by the NESHAP Asbestos Program? There are six (6) steps to determine if the buildings is regulated by the asbestos program:

1.Facility: Does a building meet the definition of “facility”?

Facilities are defined by the EPA as “any institutional, commercial, public, industrial or residential structure, installation or building, excluding residential buildings having four (4) or fewer dwelling units.”

2. Renovation or Demolition: Is the building undergoing renovation or demolition as defined by the NESHAP regulation?

Demolition means the wrecking or taking down any load-supporting structure member. Renovation means altering a facility or one (1) or more facility components in any way, including the stripping or removal of regulated asbestos containing materials from a facility component. All renovation activities that will disturb regulated asbestos containing material with greater than or equal to 260 linear feet on pipes, 160 square feet on other facility components, 35 cubic feet of “off facility” components within the area of disturbance are regulated.

3. Asbestos Inspection: Has an inspection been conducted to determine the presence, condition, and quantity of asbestos containing materials in the building?

Prior to commencement of the demolition or renovation, the facility must have a thorough survey done to determine the presences of asbestos containing materials and categorize the materials.

4. Categorizing the asbestos containing materials: A) regulated B) Category I Nonfriable and C) Category II Nonfriable

A) Regulated: Materials that are assumed to contain asbestos

B) Category I Nonfriable: have been determined to contain greater than one percent (1%) asbestos are crumbly by hand pressure.

C) Category II Nonfriable: have been determined to contain more than one percent (1%) asbestos and,  when dry, cannot be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure

5. NESHAP Notification: Has a NESHAP notification been submitted to the governing body at least ten (10) working days prior to the beginning of the renovation or demolition activity?

Facilities undergoing renovations must submit a NESHAP notification if greater than threshold amounts of regulated asbestos containing materials are disturbed. See number 2 above for definition of “Renovation”.

6. Emission Controls: These are special methods used to protect the public and the environment from exposure to asbestos.

The NESHAP procedures for asbestos emissions controls are set up to minimize the exposure of asbestos fibers during all steps of the renovation or demolition that would disturb asbestos containing materials.

So what does this mean in simple terms? If I work in a commercial building or I live in a condominium, that building is subject to the EPA NESHAP regulations. It means that a survey of the materials must be taken to determine if they are asbestos containing. The age of the building is not a factor as per the NESHAP regulations. Please remember that the regulations are in place to protect people’s health.