What is asbestos abatement?
Many buildings contain asbestos, which was used in spray-applied flame retardant, thermal system insulation, and in a variety of other materials. Asbestos was sometimes “flocked” above false ceilings, inside technical ducts, and in many other small spaces where firefighters would have difficulty gaining access. Structural components like asbestos panels were also used. In residences, asbestos was often a component of a type of flocked acoustic ceiling called popcorn ceiling or “cottage cheese ceiling”, until its production was banned in the U.S. in 1978. However, the ban allowed installers to use up remaining stocks, so houses built as late as 1986 could still have asbestos in their acoustic ceilings. The only way to be sure is to remove a sample and have it tested by a competent laboratory.
The EPA and Asbestos
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) (Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Title II)
This law required EPA to promulgate regulations (e.g., the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule) requiring local educational agencies to inspect their school buildings for asbestos-containing building material, prepare asbestos management plans and perform asbestos response actions to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. AHERA also tasked EPA with developing a model plan for states for accrediting persons conducting asbestos inspection and corrective-action activities at schools. The Toxic Substances Control Act defines asbestos as the asbestiform varieties of: chrysotile (serpentine); crocidolite (riebeckite); amosite (cummingtonite/grunerite); anthophyllite; tremolite; and actinolite.
Asbestos Information Act (Public Law 100-577)
This law helped to provide transparency and identify the companies making certain types of asbestos-containing products by requiring manufacturers to report production to the EPA.
Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act (ASHARA)
This law extended funding for the asbestos abatement loan and grant program for schools. ASHARA also directed EPA to increase the number of training hours required for the training disciplines under the Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan (MAP) and to expand the accreditation requirements to cover asbestos abatement projects in all public and commercial buildings in addition to schools.
Docket ID: OPTS-62048E; FRL-3269-8
- Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act of 1990
- Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan
- February 3, 1994 Federal Register Notice: Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan
Clean Air Act (CAA) (42 USC § 7401 et seq.)
This law defines the EPA’s responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation’s air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer and includes provisions for the EPA to set national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants, including asbestos.
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the federal law that helps ensure the quality of Americans’ drinking water. Under the SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.
This law, also known as Superfund, was enacted to address abandoned hazardous waste sites in the U.S. The law has subsequently been amended, by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), and the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act of 2002. CERCLA authority may be appropriate to respond to the release or potential release of asbestos into the environment.
EPA Asbestos Regulations
Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule
Pursuant to the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools rule requires local education agencies to inspect their school buildings for asbestos-containing building material, prepare asbestos management plans and perform asbestos response actions to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. Public school districts and non-profit private schools, including charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions (collectively called local education agencies) are subject to the rule’s requirements.
Docket ID: OPTS-62048E; FRL-3269-8
- Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule (40 CFR Part 763, Subpart E)
- Interim Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) Analytical Methods (Appendix A to Subpart E of 40 CFR Part 763)
- Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan (Appendix C to Subpart E of 40 CFR Part 763)
- Transport and Disposal of Asbestos Waste (Appendix D to Subpart E of 40 CFR Part 763)
- Interim Method of the Determination of Asbestos in Bulk Insulation Samples (Appendix E to Subpart E of 40 CFR Part 763)
EPA Asbestos Worker Protection Rule
Through the authority of Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) the EPA extended worker protection requirements to state and local government employees involved in asbestos work who were not previously covered by the the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) asbestos regulations.
Docket ID: OPPTS-62125B; FRL-6751-3
Asbestos Ban and Phaseout Rule (Remanded )
On July 12, 1989, the EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products. In 1991, this regulation was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, as a result of the Court’s decision, only a few asbestos-containing products remain banned.
Docket ID: OPTS-62048E; FRL-3269-8
- 40 CFR Part 763, Subpart I — Prohibition of the Manufacture, Importation, Processing and Distribution in Commerce of Certain Asbestos-Containing Products; Labeling Requirements
Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)
The asbestos NESHAP regulations specify work practices for asbestos to be followed during demolitions and renovations of all structures, installations, and buildings (excluding residential buildings that have four or fewer dwelling units). The regulations require the owner of the building or the operator to notify the appropriate state agency before any demolition, or before any renovations of buildings that could contain a certain threshold amount of asbestos or asbestos-containing material. In addition, particular manufacturing and fabricating operations either cannot emit visible emissions into the outside air or must follow air cleaning procedures, as well as follow certain requirements when removing asbestos-containing waste.
Docket ID: OAR–2002–0082, FRL–7561–2
- 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M (Complete Rule)
Asbestos is designated as a hazardous substance with a reportable quantity in the Superfund regulations.
Other Federal Agencies with Asbestos Regulations
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
OSHA oversees the working conditions for U.S. workers by implementing and managing occupational safety and health standards. The following regulations pertain to handling asbestos in the workplace.
- Asbestos General Standard—Specification of permissible exposure limits, engineering controls, worker training, labeling, respiratory protection, and disposal of asbestos waste
- Asbestos Construction Standard—Covers construction work involving asbestos, including work practices during demolition and renovation, worker training, disposal of asbestos waste, and specification of permissible exposure limits
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
The CPSC protects consumers and families from consumer products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or can injure children. Below are the following CPSC bans or restrictions on asbestos-containing products:
- Emberizing Materials
- Patching Compounds
- Asbestos Containing Garments for General Use
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
MSHA is responsible for overseeing the safety and health of miners in the U.S. The following MSHA regulations apply to asbestos in mines:
- Surface Mines: exposure limits, engineering controls, and respiratory protection measures for workers in surface mines