The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) calls asbestos “a commercial designation for any mineral products composed of strong and flexible fibers, resistant to heat, corrosion, abrasion, and that can be woven.” Despite all of these remarkable properties, known since the time of Aristotle, controversy has followed asbestos due to numerous and well-documented adverse health effects. Various federal and state agencies and private sector organizations grapple with continuing public health concerns, such as the legacy of the Libby, Montana vermiculite mine, possible asbestos risks from the World Trade Center collapse and other related issues. They also continue to address current developments regarding the safety and efficacy of substitutes.
Many Americans are under the impression that asbestos has been banned for years. However, even though consumption has dropped dramatically over the past three decades, the USGS estimates that more than 26 million pounds of asbestos was used in product manufacturing in the U.S. during 2001. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that more than 700,000 commercial and public buildings contain friable asbestos. Countless more homes, schools, and factories contain friable and non-friable asbestos. Enough asbestos cement pipe has been used in the U.S. since 1930 to circle the earth eight times. Asbestos-containing products continue to be imported into the U.S. Although imports have declined, strict controls and accurate numbers regarding these imports are seen to be lacking. While not all applications of asbestos present significant risk in normal use when best practices are followed, these continuing uses are sources of concern to many stakeholders in this process.
Ultimately, the aggregate cost to remove asbestos from buildings may range from $50 to $150 billion, according to one widely quoted estimate from the journal Science. Over the past 30 years, billions of dollars have been invested in controlling exposure to asbestos. Regulatory actions, improved work practices, testing of bulk materials and air samples, and management or removal of asbestos have reduced asbestos exposure in the U.S. Development of alternatives has often enabled manufacturers to transition to effective substitutes. At the same time, massive litigation has provided some compensation to workers affected by asbestos exposure and has driven into bankruptcy dozens of companies that mined, manufactured, or used asbestos. Concerns continue about the presence and use of asbestos and potential remaining risks in management.
These issues and many like them are impacting public and business policy throughout the nation. Some of these concerns and the economic and social costs cited above are associated with a lack of consistent, usable information and an inability to deliver such information adequately. For example, asbestos removal costs have come down since the mid-1980s. Many businesses are under the misconception that products they purchase no longer contain asbestos, incurring future liability when workers or others are exposed. Such quality information can reduce the costs associated with asbestos.
It is crucial for regulatory and advisory agencies to have the best available information in order to make the most effective use of limited resources. Agency budgets for oversight, outreach, and education are relatively small compared to the sums involved in control and abatement. However, a modest investment in effective oversight, outreach and education can have a strong potential to reduce exposure and avoid needless expenses later.
Therefore, the Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF) engaged more than 100 technical and policy experts and other key stakeholders from government, academia and the private sector to take stock of the recent experiences with potential solutions and options regarding the use and management of asbestos. This process – entitled Asbestos Strategies – was not intended to build consensus, but to focus on how oversight, outreach, and education will help promote innovative approaches and best management practices to effectively address and best manage costs and exposure risks associated with asbestos issues. GETF is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization with expertise in stakeholder facilitation. A complete description of the process is contained in Appendix A.
This report reflects a fresh look at the current situation through a review of recent research and by seeking and assessing the views of stakeholders with significant experience. Due to a limited budget and scope, it does not attempt to review the science of asbestos nor is it a comprehensive evaluation of the risk and risk mitigation issues associated with asbestos. It does, however, identify significant concerns and uncertainties – many of which can be addressed by clearly stating what is known and not known. The recommendations here can serve agencies and interested institutions as a basis for action or for targeted further inquiry. Public concerns about remaining risk can be mitigated by clarification of information and enhanced coordination among key federal and state agencies. With clearer information and rules, experts may determine that some questions require further research or regulatory action.
Summarized below are the leading ten recommendations for policy makers suggested by key stakeholders to address issues surrounding asbestos. These recommendations primarily focus on the use of oversight, outreach, and education to achieve results. The recommendations are not ranked and are intended to be implemented concurrently, if possible. They are divided into short term recommendations to be implemented rapidly, and longer term recommendations that will require additional time and resources to implement. A number of scientific issues, including analytical methods, medical studies, mineralogical definitions, and risk assessment, remain to be addressed. A brief history of the science is described in Appendix B, “Background,” and areas needing further research are highlighted in Appendix C, grouped and prioritized by topic area.
The full report summarizes the process used to identify asbestos issues today. It should be noted that asbestos has likely been studied more than any other hazardous material over the past 100 years. Scientific and medical literature contains thousands of articles addressing hundreds of issues surrounding asbestos. Major scientific conferences have been held on every continent but Antarctica. Yet with all the studies there remains disagreement on many fundamental issues regarding asbestos. It is unlikely these disagreements will be resolved in the immediate future. While disagreements do exist, there were issues identified by the Asbestos Strategies stakeholders where policy makers can have a positive impact.
The issues themselves are grouped into categories with a brief background discussion, the remaining issues identified, areas of future research needed, and recommendations to address many of the issues. The document provided a total of 20 recommendations that largely employ oversight, outreach, and education to address specific issues. Ten leading recommendations are included in the following tables, and the complete list of recommendations is contained in Appendix D.
Ten Leading Recommendations from Asbestos Strategies Process (not ranked)
Table 1.1: Leading Short Term Recommendations
Action 1: Update Existing Asbestos-in-Buildings Guidance
Description: The EPA should update the “purple book” guidance document to make it the premier technical resource for managing asbestos in buildings and facilities, including industrial settings. The revised resource should include updated “green book” (operations and maintenance) information, and should be consistent with current federal regulations and good practices that have evolved since its release in 1985. The resulting resource, in a form such as an online integrated database of all relevant documents, will facilitate compliance with existing regulations, reducing asbestos exposure among contractors working in buildings.
Lead Agency: EPA Supporting Agency: OSHA
Action 2: Encourage Compliance with Existing Regulations
Description: Regulatory agencies should encourage compliance with existing regulations and good practices for managing asbestos in buildings and conducting response actions. This may be accomplished through a series of asbestos awareness seminars directed at the regulated community (building owners, contractors and consultants). The seminars should be sponsored by EPA and OSHA, and hosted by the resident state asbestos authority. Joint sponsorship would be extremely valuable. Such seminars should be held in conjunction with national or regional meetings of professional/trade associations such as the Environmental Information Association (EIA) to encourage participation by the target audience. Regulatory compliance will increase worker and building occupant safety, reduce asbestos exposure, and decrease costs associated with liability. This action should be undertaken in the context of a long-term effort to enforce existing regulations and improve consistency among agencies, as noted in Action 7 in Table 1.2.
Lead Agency: EPA Supporting Groups: OSHA, EIA & State Regulators
Action 3: Clarify the Asbestos Definition to Address Asbestos Contamination in Vermiculite and Other Minerals
Description: The Libby vermiculite situation should be considered an important lesson, but not be treated as a typical case. A federal process should be undertaken promptly to clarify the definition of “asbestos.” Many parties recommended that the definition should include all asbestiform amphiboles, in addition to currently regulated amphiboles and chrysotile. An evaluation by EPA, OSHA and MSHA will be needed to determine procedurally how this should be accomplished, and what consequences such a clarification might have, if any, on other industries. This definition, if adopted, would enable federal agencies to address the risk of exposure from minerals such as winchite and richterite. USGS, trade associations, and other organizations can serve as resources for clarifying and understanding the science associated with creating a new definition.
Lead Agency: EPA Supporting Agencies: MSHA, OSHA, USGS
Action 4: Advance a Federal Legislative Ban on Asbestos
Description: A clearly defined legislative ban on the production, manufacture, distribution and importation of products with commercially-added asbestos is the most direct means to address concerns about remaining health risk and reduce future costs for facility owners and managers. Such a ban should be proposed by the Congress, promptly debated, and conclusively resolved. Enabling legislation would eliminate remaining products by a specified date, and installation of those products by a later date. Jurisdictional issues could be addressed in congressional legislation that might not be achievable by individual agency rule-makings. Exceptions may be necessary for a small number of applications for which substitutes may not be available, and for research purposes. Implementing regulations, and perhaps the enabling legislation itself, could be challenged in the courts.
Lead Agency: Congress Supporting Agencies: EPA, OSHA, Dept. of Commerce
Action 5: Develop A National Mesothelioma Registry
Description: A national mesothelioma registry is necessary to facilitate epidemiology studies to evaluate the effects of asbestos exposure. Many countries and some states have established mesothelioma registries. The establishment of such a registry would likely be performed by agencies within the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including the National Center for Health Statistics, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Center for Environmental Health, in conjunction with ATSDR and state public health departments. An accompanying effort to connect interested parties with the best experts and data would improve research and treatment of asbestos-related disease.
Lead Agency: CDC Supporting Agencies: State Public Health Departments, ATSDR
Table 1.2: Leading Long Term Recommendations
Action 6: Update Asbestos Model Training Curricula
Description: The EPA should update the model training curricula to ensure that all relevant agencies’ priorities are reflected. Updating the training will make the curricula consistent with existing regulations and increase worker safety. The updated versions should cover the revised OSHA asbestos standards, revised EPA asbestos NESHAP standards, EPA Worker Protection Rule, new respirator designations/regulations, and other topics. The training providers should also be permitted to vary the course content in refresher courses.
Lead Agency: EPA Supporting Agencies: State Regulators and OSHA
Action 7: Enforce Existing Asbestos Regulations
Description: The EPA, OSHA, CPSC, and state regulators should focus on more stringent, predictable, and consistent enforcement of existing regulations, which may offer greater benefit than committing scarce resources to new rule-making efforts. This recommendation can be implemented immediately; however, such an effort must continue into the long-term. Consistent interpretations and streamlining across agencies will lead to increased compliance and potential reduced liability for businesses. Any step that EPA and OSHA can take to encourage the enforcement of existing regulations at the local level will likely prove most effective. To this end, consideration should be given to the use of a form such as the one created by EIA to assure compliance with existing regulations at the time applications are made for building, renovation, or demolition permits. This action ties into Action 2 in Table 1.1.
Lead Agency: EPA Supporting Agencies: OSHA, CPSC and State Regulators
Action 8: Reduce Unintended Asbestos in Products
Description: Reduction of naturally occurring asbestos in products could be achieved by a program set up by a consortium of mining concerns to develop a sampling and analytical protocol to analyze bulk materials at the mining stage for chrysotile and all asbestiform amphibole forms of asbestos. Oversight of such a program may be provided by EPA and MSHA, with technical assistance by NIOSH and NIST. This program would assist the mining and quarrying industry in avoiding unwanted asbestos in their product. The program would provide a degree of assurance to users of these raw materials that they are not contaminated with asbestos.
Lead Agency: EPA Supporting Groups: Mining Industry, MSHA, NIOSH, NIST, USGS
Action 9: Address Asbestos-Containing Products in Commerce
Description: A coordinated effort to educate consumers, employers and building owners about products with commercially-added asbestos is necessary. Such a program would assist the target audience in making an informed decision about which products are legally available with commercially added asbestos. This education and outreach effort would be performed by EPA, OSHA and CPSC. These agencies would need to perform research into which products actually have commercially added asbestos, which do not, and which are to be phased out voluntarily by manufacturers. Congress should consider amending the Asbestos Information Act of 1988 requiring manufacturers and importers to update information on their asbestos-containing products to EPA.
Lead Agency: EPA Supporting Agencies: CPSC, OSHA, Congress, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection
Action 10: Partner with State Agencies in Support of Asbestos Training
Description: Training providers under the EPA model accreditation plan (MAP) and corresponding state plans should be audited with sufficient frequency to assure the training is provided, tests are conducted, records maintained, and certificates issued. This action, conducted in concert with Action 6, will increase worker safety and the effectiveness of abatement efforts. Reducing the incidence of training fraud will provide greater security to building occupants and owners. Partnering with state agencies will provide better coordination.
Lead Agency: EPA Support Groups: State Regulators, Training Providers, OSHA
2.1 Project Purpose
The purpose of the Asbestos Strategies project was to take stock of the recent experience with potential solutions and options regarding the use and management of asbestos. The first major objective was to offer recommendations and options on effective asbestos oversight, outreach and education approaches. The second major objective was to provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to share their knowledge on barriers, incentives, lessons learned, and best practices as they relate to asbestos use and management.
2.2 Overview of the Process
Throughout 2002, GETF engaged more than 100 technical and policy experts and other key stakeholders from government, academia and the private sector with knowledge and interest in the use and management of asbestos.
A cross-sector focus group was convened on October 10, 2002 with fifty-three (53) stakeholders representing federal and state government agencies, industry representatives, organized labor, technical experts and key private sector organizations. Research and interviews were held prior to the meeting to identify key areas of concern, develop background on key asbestos issues, and identify other stakeholders and experts to invite. Additional interviews and meetings were held subsequent to the focus group meeting with key technical and policy experts to further clarify issues and gather opinions. GETF emphasized that the goal of the meeting and interviews was to understand views and identify priorities today, not to reach consensus on all issues or to evaluate asbestos issues exhaustively. A more detailed description of the process with a complete listing of invited and participating stakeholder groups is contained in Appendix A.
3.0 ISSUES IDENTIFIED
Several major categories of issues were identified in interviews prior to the stakeholder focus group meeting (see Appendix E for a summary of interview findings); others were identified during the focus group meeting (see Appendix F for a meeting summary). These categories then provided the framework for dialogue. The following discussion of issues, best practices, solutions, recommendations, and needs for additional research is based upon the views received. These views come from three major sources: the stakeholder focus group meeting and subsequent dialogue with participants and other technical and policy experts, prior and subsequent interviews, and research. There are certainly many additional issues concerning asbestos, however, which were not raised as priorities during this process.
For each major category, a brief background is provided, and the significant issues identified. Where additional research is needed to further define or address an issue, it is listed. (A compilation of research needs is contained in Appendix C.) Specific recommendations for actions are provided for many of the issues identified. These recommendations appear consistent with views expressed across a wide range of sectors and appear consistent with agency and marketplace experience. Thus, the recommendations focus primarily on the value of reliable information, consistently delivered, and generally do not attempt to resolve contentious technical issues. In each section where recommendations are listed, they are listed in order of priority. Those having the highest priority are those identified by stakeholders as having the greatest impact for the resources expended, although no formal cost-benefit analysis was performed.
3.1 Asbestos in Buildings
Background: The 1984 EPA national survey of asbestos in buildings estimated 733,000 buildings with friable Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM). This study also estimated there is 2.7 billion square feet of exposed asbestos-containing floor tile in 1.526 million buildings. These estimates did not include schools, industrial facilities, and residences with fewer than 10 dwelling units. Most non-residential buildings are subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asbestos standards, the EPA National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) standard for asbestos, and various state regulations.
The OSHA asbestos standard requires building owners to presume that Thermal System Insulation (TSI) and surfacing ACM found in buildings constructed before 1981, and floor tile installed in buildings through 1981, are asbestos containing, unless demonstrated to be 1% or less asbestos through sampling. The rule does not permit an assumption to be made that a material does not contain asbestos in buildings constructed after 1980. This has led to some confusion among building owners regarding the need for labeling, training and inspections.
The EPA asbestos NESHAP standard categorizes asbestos-containing material according to its friability. Materials greater than 1% asbestos are Regulated Asbestos-Containing Materials (RACM) if they are (1) friable asbestos material; (2) category I non-friable ACM that has become friable; (3) category I non-friable ACM that will be or has been subjected to sanding, grinding, cutting, or abrading; or, (4) category II non-friable ACM that has a high probability of becoming or has become crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by the forces expected to act on the material in the course of demolition or renovation operations.
Almost all states have regulations addressing asbestos. Many states have been approved by EPA to enforce the asbestos NESHAP in their states. In some states, the regulations are enforced at a local level. For example, California has separate air quality control districts, Florida has multiple districts, Allegany County, Pennsylvania enforces the regulations in the Pittsburgh area, and the cities of New York and Chicago have their own rules.
Elementary and secondary schools are covered by the EPA Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) regulations, asbestos NESHAP regulations, OSHA asbestos standards, the EPA Worker Protection Rule (some jurisdictions), and state asbestos regulations. These regulations provide a framework for the management of asbestos in school buildings. The AHERA regulations apply to commercial, industrial, and other public buildings for accreditation and training in all Model Accreditation Plan disciplines except management planner. Even though the rules do not apply to these buildings for inspection, abatement and other aspects, many building owners and consultants look to AHERA as a guide when addressing asbestos in non-school buildings. This appears to have been largely successful for sophisticated office building owners, knowledgeable consultants, and some government entities. Industrial facilities, such as power plants and oil refineries, may find much of AHERA to be difficult to implement, even when looked at as a guideline. Since the AHERA regulations were designed for schools many of the procedures, such as the clearance protocol, does not work well in industrial settings.
The primary motivations for building owners to effectively manage asbestos in buildings are health, regulatory compliance, liability concerns, and financial considerations. The need to limit exposures and prevent future asbestos-related disease focuses on these considerations. The many regulations provide direction if understood and a “stick” if enforced. The financial considerations can either detract from or promote proper management of asbestos in buildings. The cost of asbestos inspections, management programs, and response actions, with little tangible rewards is an incentive to consistently take the least costly approach. Negative publicity, tenant complaints, and insurance issues may promote effective asbestos management.
Issues Remaining: Many issues were raised through the interviews and meetings about asbestos in buildings. Some issues are addressed in other sections of this report. The list of issues below is not exhaustive but appeared to be significant based upon the views of several stakeholders.
1. The quality of work performed by people conducting response actions and managing asbestos in buildings may have declined during the past decade. This may not be universal across the country, or consistent by the types of facilities involved. Reasons expressed have included less frequent enforcement of existing regulations; quality of training for asbestos workers, consultants and regulatory personnel; misunderstanding of existing regulations; lack of independent oversight of projects in some states; and, conflicts among federal regulations and state regulations.
2. The EPA and OSHA regulations are quite lengthy and attempt to address most asbestos issues in buildings. The agencies have issued dozens of letters interpreting various requirements. This approach is seen by some as confusing and inconsistent and may serve as a barrier to employing innovative approaches to managing asbestos and developing new technical solutions. The EPA AHERA regulations (for schools) and numerous state regulations make asbestos management options even less flexible in schools.
3. The high cost of liability insurance and the quality of coverage provided to building owners, contractors and consultants influence asbestos management decisions. Financing acquisitions of commercial and industrial facilities also influence asbestos management decisions. These influences need to be better understood to determine whether government policy clarification is warranted.
4. The last comprehensive EPA guidance document for asbestos in buildings, the “purple book,” was issued in 1985. This pre-dates the EPA AHERA regulations for schools, and the latest revisions to the OSHA and EPA asbestos NESHAP standards. The 1990 EPA guidance document for asbestos operations and maintenance (O&M) programs (green book) is not entirely consistent with existing regulations.
5. Attitudes about asbestos in buildings are wide-ranging and often inconsistent. The heightened concern about asbestos in the 1980s may have led to some premature asbestos removal projects. The perceived complacency about asbestos in the 1990s may have resulted in less effective asbestos management programs. According to a number of stakeholders, mixed messages in the media from regulatory agencies may have also affected how asbestos in buildings has been managed during the past decade.
6. There is a misconception that asbestos products are no longer permitted to be sold in the U.S. A number of products may continue to be produced with commercially-added asbestos, although most domestic manufacturers have substituted non-asbestos alternatives. For example, building products, roofing cements, gaskets and packings with asbestos are available in the U.S. This issue is further discussed in section 3.2.
7. The application of risk assessment techniques to the management of asbestos in buildings was raised as a remaining issue. One subpart to this issue appears to be perceived risks versus actual risks from in-place ACM. Another appears to be potential risks or exposures from in-place ACM versus current risks or exposures.
Recommended Solutions: For each issue raised there could be many solutions. The solutions recommended below are those that could be implemented in the near term. These ideas have emerged from stakeholder input; they are also recommendations that may best employ education, outreach and/or oversight to achieve results.
1. The EPA should update the “purple book” guidance document to make it the premier technical resource for managing asbestos in buildings and facilities, including industrial settings. The revised resource should include updated “green book” information , and should be consistent with current federal regulations and good practices that have evolved since its release in 1985. The resulting resource, in a form such as an online integrated database of all relevant documents, will facilitate compliance with existing regulations, reducing asbestos exposure among contractors working in buildings.
2. Regulatory agencies should encourage compliance with existing regulations and good practices for managing asbestos in buildings and conducting response actions. This may be accomplished through a series of asbestos awareness seminars directed at the regulated community (building owners, contractors and consultants). The seminars should be sponsored by EPA and OSHA, and hosted by the resident state asbestos authority. Joint sponsorship would be extremely valuable. Such seminars should be held in conjunction with national or regional meetings of professional/trade associations such as the Environmental Information Association (EIA) to encourage participation by the target audience. Regulatory compliance will increase worker and building occupant safety, reduce asbestos exposure, and decrease costs associated with liability. This action should be undertaken in the context of a long-term effort to enforce existing regulations and improve consistency among agencies
3. The EPA in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should revise and update the Asbestos in Homes guidance document. This would help address the gap that currently exists in regulations affecting residential buildings.
4. Federal and state agencies should provide additional training to their personnel responsible for asbestos. These personnel would be better equipped to provide guidance and assistance to the regulated community. These agencies should use such personnel to increase enforcement of existing regulations. Federal agencies could be tasked to ensure that this training is supported by consistent messages from those agencies.
5. Federal and state agencies should communicate among themselves before issuing communiqués to the public. This may reduce confusion among building owners and others attempting to comply with regulations. A web-based electronic distribution mechanism for such information should be established to assure rapid communication. Some of the regional consortiums currently in EPA regions 1-5 may serve as a model for this recommendation.
3.2 Asbestos in Products
Asbestos was commercially added to more than 3,000 products historically. In the U.S., asbestos has been removed or substituted for in all but a small number of products today. In 2001, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stated approximately 13,100 metric tons of asbestos was used in the United States. Most of the asbestos was imported from Canada. The last asbestos mine in the U.S. ceased operation in 2002.
The USGS estimated the major manufacturing uses in the U.S. are (as of 2001) asphaltic roofing compounds (9,250 tons), gaskets (2,300 tons), and friction products, such as brake linings and clutch facings (608 tons). These are shown in Figure 3.1, left. In addition to domestic manufacturing, asbestos-containing products are imported into the U.S. What products are imported with commercially-added asbestos has not been systematically investigated and not all imported asbestos-containing products are clearly labeled as such. The Department of Commerce maintains some information on broad product categories, but import data often fail to distinguish between asbestos-containing products and products that use substitutes for asbestos and can lead to confusion as to whether or not imported products contain asbestos. For example, over 44,000 tons of products of “asbestos-cement, cellulose fiber-cement, or the like” were imported in 2002. A majority of these products are imported from Canada and Mexico, two countries where asbestos is still in use. While the imports from these countries are no longer asbestos-containing, the International Trade Administration classifications do not make this distinction. Some U.S. companies have promised to phase out the use of asbestos in brakes, but brake pads, linings, and shoes continue to be imported from countries that use large amounts of asbestos. Imports in 2002 also included well over 100 tons of asbestos yarn, string, cord, thread, fabric, and fabricated fibers, predominately from developing countries.
Substitutes for asbestos in products are available for almost all uses. The health risks for some substitutes are controversial. Many private entities and government agencies have established policies that prohibit the purchase or use of products with commercially added asbestos. However, such policies can only be implemented if the products are clearly labeled. A.A. Hodgson’s book, Alternative to Asbestos - the Pros and Cons (1989) and other similar publications provide listings of some available alternatives. None of these sources appears to be exhaustive.
On July 12, 1989 the EPA promulgated the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule under authority of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Under this rule certain asbestos-containing products were scheduled to be banned at staged intervals over a seven-year period. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated most of the rule and remanded it to the EPA in October 1991. The court left intact the portion of the rule that regulates products that were not being manufactured, produced, or imported when the rule was published on July 12, 1989.
The six asbestos-containing product categories still subject to the rule are corrugated paper, rollboard, commercial paper, specialty paper, flooring felt, and any other new uses of asbestos. Actions by the EPA in the 1970s had previously eliminated the application of friable spray-applied fireproofing and surface treatments, as well as friable thermal system insulations, such as pipe and boiler insulation. In the 1970’s, the CPSC issued rules prohibiting the sale of consumer patching compounds and fireplace emberizing agents containing respirable free form asbestos. In the 1980s, CPSC issued an enforcement policy under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) concerning labeling of certain asbestos-containing household products that, under reasonably foreseeable conditions of handling and use, are likely to release asbestos fibers . The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited asbestos from use in some drugs, cosmetics and foodstuffs.
The following commercial product categories are no longer subject to the EPA rule and it appears permissible that they be manufactured, imported and sold in the U.S.:
TABLE 3.1: Asbestos-Containing Products Allowed in the U.S. ,
asbestos cement corrugated sheet clutch facings
asbestos cement flat sheet friction materials
asbestos clothing disk brake pads
pipeline wrap drum brake lining
roofing felt brake blocks
vinyl asbestos floor tile gaskets
asbestos cement shingle non-roofing coatings
millboard roof coatings
asbestos cement pipe automatic transmission components
The following products were never a part of the EPA’s ban and phase-out rule; however, some may require labeling under the CPSC’s FHSA:
• acetylene cylinders
• arc chutes
• asbestos diaphragms
• battery separators
• high-grade electrical paper
• missile liners
• packings (valves, seals, and other uses)
• reinforced plastic
• sealant tape
• specialty industrial gaskets
• textile products
Over thirty countries have issued bans on all forms of asbestos (see Appendix G). The European Commission banned the five forms of amphibole asbestos from the European Union in 1991. Chrysotile asbestos was banned from fourteen categories of product at that time. On July 27, 1999 Annex I of Directive 76/769/EEC extended the ban on chrysotile in asbestos cement products, friction products seals, gaskets, and various specialty uses.
The Directive requires member states to implement the ban by January 1, 2005. An exception is made for using chrysotile asbestos in diaphragms used in chlorine plants for electrolysis, for which no substitute is available. This use is permitted until at least 2008. The European Commission directive does not apply to substances used for research or analysis, and special military uses. The ban does not apply to asbestos that is not intentionally added to products. The ban does not require in-place asbestos-containing products to be removed until the end of their service life.
In 2002, Senator Patty Murray of Washington introduced legislation titled, The Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2002. This bill, S. 2641, would require the EPA to issue regulations prohibiting the manufacture, processing, importation and distribution of asbestos-containing products. The bill also contained provisions for a public education campaign, research on asbestos diseases, a national mesothelioma registry, evaluation of products unintentionally contaminated with asbestos, and the establishment of a blue ribbon panel on asbestos and non-regulated fibers. No action was taken on this legislation during 2002. The bill would need to be re-introduced in the current (or future) Senate session to be considered.
The current OSHA asbestos standard requires products used in the workplace to be labeled if greater than 1% asbestos, and likely to result in exposures above the permissible exposure limits during their foreseeable use. The OSHA Hazard Communications standard requires materials used in the workplace having greater than 0.1% of any known human carcinogen to be labeled. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are required to be made available to employers from manufacturers upon request. This information must be accessible to employees, or their representatives.
Issues Remaining: A number of issues were raised through interviews and meetings about asbestos in new products. The list of issues below is not exhaustive but appeared to represent the major issues discussed by the group.
1. The extent to which products currently on the market contain commercially-added asbestos is not clearly defined. Which products contain asbestos and which do not is often not clearly disclosed on the product labels. It is also unclear the degree of hazard, or risk, posed by some products on the market with commercially-added asbestos. Put another way, the presence of asbestos in products needs to be understood, but it may be that the asbestos fibers present no meaningful risk during normal use of certain products. In other products, asbestos presents a very significant risk. Generally, the risk of asbestos exposure is most critically affected by how the product is handled during and after manufacture and during and after installation.
2. The definition of an asbestos-containing material under the EPA regulations is a material having greater than 1 percent asbestos. When this definition was established by EPA, it was rare that manufacturers would add less than this amount to a product. The analytical methods did not permit a reliable measurement of less than 1 percent asbestos. An issue remains whether 1 percent is an appropriate definition of an asbestos material with commercially-added asbestos. A related issue is the percentage of naturally occurring asbestos not intentionally added to the product. Products with less than 1 percent asbestos can also be dangerous if, in handling the product, there is significant fiber release.
3. Interviews, meetings, and field visits to workplaces and home improvement stores found products with asbestos as an ingredient. The word “asbestos” was not used on the label. Rather, the terms “Canadian Mineral Fiber” or “Chrysotile” were used. The issue is whether such labeling practices are misleading to consumers or employers wishing not to purchase products with commercially-added asbestos.
4. Which federal agencies have jurisdiction over the monitoring of asbestos in products is unclear. Each of the following federal agencies has some jurisdiction:
TABLE 3.2: Agencies Responsible for Monitoring and Controlling Asbestos
Agency Area of Responsibility
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency products (TSCA), emissions, buildings
Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace products
U.S. Department of Transportation shipping
Food and Drug Administration asbestos in foods, drugs and cosmetics
Mine Safety and Health Administration asbestos (during mining)
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asbestos in consumer products
U.S. Department of Commerce import/export, with EPA
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection importation of products, with CPSC
The many federal agencies with sometimes overlapping jurisdictions may have resulted in a piecemeal or overly compartmentalized approach to regulating asbestos in products.
5. The EPA asbestos NESHAP regulations require building owners or operators to inspect buildings for asbestos prior to certain renovations and all demolitions. If asbestos products were no longer available for use in buildings the EPA could establish a firm date after which building owners could assume asbestos products are not present. Economically, building owners would not need to hire accredited building inspectors to sample and analyze building materials in newly constructed buildings and facilities. Under current regulations, with no outright asbestos ban, NESHAP inspections of buildings must continue even in buildings being built today.
Recommended Solutions: Several recommended solutions to issues raised about commercially-added asbestos in new products are described below.
1. A clearly defined legislative ban on the production, manufacture, distribution and importation of products with commercially-added asbestos is the most direct means to address concerns about remaining health risk and reduce future costs for facility owners and managers. Such a ban should be proposed by the Congress, promptly debated, and conclusively resolved. Enabling legislation would eliminate remaining products by a specified date, and installation of those products by a later date. Jurisdictional issues could be addressed in congressional legislation that might not be achievable by individual agency rule-makings. Exceptions may be necessary for a small number of applications for which substitutes may not be available, and for research purposes. Implementing regulations, and perhaps the enabling legislation itself, could be challenged in the courts.
2. A uniform labeling requirement for all products with commercially-added asbestos should be established through rule making. Labels should include the word asbestos and should be a specified minimum size, and should be consistent with the labeling requirements of the CPSC’s FHSA. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection would ensure that imported asbestos-containing products are properly labeled in accordance with this requirement. The EPA would likely be the lead agency for such a rule making, but would need to coordinate its efforts with other agencies having jurisdiction over products with commercially-added asbestos. This option would need to be implemented with the following recommendation as well.
3. A coordinated effort to educate consumers, employers and building owners about products with commercially-added asbestos may be successful. Such a program would assist the target audience to make an informed decision about which products are legally available with commercially-added asbestos. This education and outreach effort would be performed by EPA, OSHA and CPSC, as resources permit. These agencies would need to perform research into which products actually have commercially-added asbestos, which do not, and which are to be phased out voluntarily by manufacturers. Congress should consider amending the Asbestos Information Act of 1988 requiring manufacturers and importers to update information on their asbestos-containing products to EPA. Non-governmental organizations such as EIA are able to assist with the education and dissemination of information.
3.3 Naturally Occurring Asbestos as a Product Contaminant
Background: Naturally-occurring minerals known collectively as “asbestos” are occasionally found as an unintended contaminant in some products. Depending on the nature and use of the products, asbestos exposures to workers, consumers and others can occur. The amphibole forms of asbestos known as tremolite and actinolite are perhaps the most common asbestos contaminants. Asbestos contamination may be often found in metamorphic rock with high magnesium content.
The issue of asbestos contamination in products has surfaced repeatedly during the past 25 years. Incidences of asbestos contamination in talc, vermiculite, play sand, crayons, and art supplies have arisen. Educational efforts by the EPA and CPSC, along with voluntary efforts by some manufacturers have traditionally been relied upon to address each incident. Manufacturers have generally employed alternate materials whenever concerns arose regarding the safety of a product. The perception of risk among consumers, rather than regulatory action, was the major motivator in many of these cases.
In recent years, much attention has focused on the vermiculite-mining district near Libby, Montana. Concern has also been expressed about exposures to users of products consisting of vermiculite from this location. The Libby vermiculite deposits have been reported to be significantly contaminated with asbestiform amphiboles including some closely resembling fibrous tremolite and actinolite.
The mineral names for these Libby minerals are winchite and richterite, which are not listed by regulatory agencies as forms of asbestos. The differences between these mineral forms and the listed tremolite and actinolite forms appear to be minor. Some workers who mined and milled the Libby vermiculite appear to have developed the same asbestos-related diseases as workers exposed to the listed forms of asbestos.
The EPA, USGS, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are conducting studies to determine exposures from Libby vermiculite products, and the resultant health effects. The Libby vermiculite deposit was originally developed as an asbestos deposit. In this sense, the Libby vermiculite deposit is unique, and not likely to be representative of vermiculite deposits in the U.S., or elsewhere.
The issue of asbestos contamination in mining and quarrying operations is not limited to just vermiculite and talc. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is currently revising their asbestos standard. The current MSHA standard of 2 f/cc is expected to be reduced. The dusty nature of mining operations and the non-specific nature of the air sampling method currently used to measure worker exposures has prompted MSHA to consider transmission electron microscopy (TEM) as the analytical method of choice.
Interviews with some representatives of the mining and quarrying industries indicate efforts are being made to avoid mining deposits and seams likely to have substantial quantities of asbestos. Knowledge of the geology of the area, visual inspections of the working face, and sample analyses are used to avoid encountering significant asbestos deposits.
Issues Remaining: The following issues related to naturally occurring asbestos as a contaminant were identified during the asbestos strategy process. The list below is not exhaustive.
1. How should mining concerns, product manufacturers, distributors, and users respond to the issue of natural asbestos in ore and products as unintentional contaminants? As a closely related issue, how should regulators respond to the same concern?
2. Current producers of vermiculite and vermiculite products expressed concern that all vermiculite has been tainted due to the publicity surrounding the Libby vermiculite. It is noted that vermiculite from the Libby deposit has not been mined for approximately 10 years. Since these current mining deposits appear not to be equally risky, an effective way of communicating on this topic appears essential.
3. What information should be provided to homeowners who may have Libby vermiculite (Zonolite) as insulation in their homes?
4. Do the existing polarized light microscopy (PLM) analytical method for measuring asbestos in bulk materials and the commercial laboratories performing these analyses provide reliable results for measuring asbestos as a natural contaminant at the 1 percent level or below?
Recommended Solutions: The following possible initial solutions were considered as means to address some of the issues raised.
1. Reduction of naturally occurring asbestos in products could be achieved by a program set up by a consortium of mining concerns to develop a sampling and analytical protocol to analyze bulk materials at the mining stage for chrysotile and all asbestiform amphibole forms of asbestos. Oversight of such a program may be provided by EPA and MSHA, with technical assistance by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and USGS. This program would assist the mining and quarrying industry in avoiding unwanted asbestos in their product. The program would provide a degree of assurance to users of these raw materials that they are not contaminated with asbestos.
2. The Libby vermiculite situation should be considered an important lesson, but not be treated as a typical case. A federal process should be undertaken promptly to clarify the definition of “asbestos.” Many parties recommended that the definition should include all asbestiform amphiboles, in addition to currently regulated amphiboles and chrysotile. An evaluation by EPA, OSHA and MSHA will be needed to determine procedurally how this should be accomplished, and what consequences such a clarification might have, if any, on other industries. This definition, if adopted, would enable federal agencies to address the risk of exposure from minerals such as winchite and richterite. USGS, trade associations, and other organizations can serve as resources for clarifying and understanding the science associated with creating a new definition.
3. A labeling provision should be considered for products having naturally occurring asbestos as a contaminant. Some products may currently be subject to the labeling requirements of the CPSC’s FHSA if, under reasonably foreseeable conditions of handling and use, they are likely to release asbestos fibers. Existing regulations may be sufficient for products found to contain more than 1 percent asbestos. A label may be appropriate for products containing greater than 0.1 percent asbestos by volume, if feasible. The evidence on this issue should at least be reviewed. Products consistently found to contain asbestos at a level below 0.1 percent through a testing program may be exempt from labeling, or have a label with different wording.
3.4 Regulations and Enforcement
Background: There are over 20 different asbestos rules and regulations at the federal level. At least 40 states have asbestos regulations mostly affecting asbestos in buildings and the qualifications of contractors and others who perform asbestos surveys and response actions. Additionally, many local government agencies (county and city) have promulgated rules affecting asbestos in buildings.
The major regulations affecting asbestos in buildings, the workplace, and products have been summarized elsewhere in this document and highlighted in Table B.1 of Appendix B. Many of the issues concerning regulations were described in sections 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3.
Interview and focus group participants made reference to various innovative approaches at the state and local level to support enforcement of asbestos regulations. Most of the approaches described focused on existing asbestos in buildings, response action practices, and contractor licensing or certification. Michigan supports asbestos enforcement activities, including the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Asbestos Licensing Program, and the Asbestos Accreditation Program, with a surcharge of 1% on most asbestos removal fees. Texas has a new law that requires an asbestos survey in order to get a building permit. Wisconsin reported an increase in NESHAP notification compliance through an outreach program to fire departments. Maine has developed a “one-stop shop” for asbestos issues within its Department of Environmental Protection. Georgia has demonstrated increased compliance with its asbestos regulations through its STAR program, working cooperatively with the regulated community. Several states in the Southwest employ a simple form developed and distributed by the Environmental Information Association (see Appendix J) that must be completed and submitted along with an application for a building, demolition, or renovation permit. This information alerts the building inspectors and the building owner of the need to survey their buildings for asbestos before they begin a renovation or demolition project. Current federal regulations require an inspection for asbestos before demolition or renovation, and this form encourages such compliance.
1. Building owners, contractors, consultants, and others often are not knowledgeable of the applicable federal, state and local regulations governing asbestos in buildings, response actions, and disposal.
2. Existing federal, state and local regulations are often not regularly enforced. Possible reasons include insufficient staffing, funding, and training among the existing staff.
3. Some regulations may benefit by clarifications and revisions. Many stakeholders appear wary of re-opening rule-makings that might allow special interests to weaken some provisions.
Recommended Solutions: Most proposed solutions affecting asbestos regulations are addressed in sections 3.1 – 3.3. Several additional proposed solutions are offered below.
1. The EPA, OSHA, CPSC, and state regulators should focus on more stringent, predictable, and consistent enforcement of existing regulations, which may offer greater benefit than committing scarce resources to new rule-making efforts. This recommendation can be implemented immediately; however, such an effort must continue into the long-term. Consistent interpretations and streamlining across agencies will lead to increased compliance and potential reduced liability for businesses. Any step that EPA and OSHA can take to encourage the enforcement of existing regulations at the local level will likely prove most effective. To this end, consideration should be given to the use of a form such as the one created by EIA to assure compliance with existing regulations at the time applications are made for building, renovation, or demolition permits.
2. The EPA should update the model training curricula to ensure that all relevant agencies’ priorities are reflected. Updating the training will make the curricula consistent with existing regulations and increase worker safety. The updated versions should cover the revised OSHA asbestos standards, revised EPA asbestos NESHAP standards, EPA Worker Protection Rule, new respirator designations/regulations, and other topics. The training providers should also be permitted to vary the course content in refresher courses.
3. Training providers under the EPA model accreditation plan (MAP) and corresponding state plans should be audited with sufficient frequency to assure the training is provided, tests are conducted, records maintained, and certificates issued. This action, conducted in concert with the updating of training requirements, will increase worker safety and the effectiveness of abatement efforts. Reducing the incidence of training fraud will provide greater security to building occupants and owners. Partnering with state agencies will provide better coordination.
4. A summary document of federal asbestos regulations should be prepared. This would be a valuable resource for the regulated community and the regulators. The document would be prepared by EPA and OSHA with input from the other federal agencies with asbestos regulations.
5. A companion summary document of state asbestos regulation summaries would also be a valuable education tool. This document could be developed by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The NCSL has developed such documents in past years, but these are now no longer accurate. The new document should include a list of web sites where the state (and local) regulations may be found.
6. The EPA should partner with one or more local organizations such as the Environmental Information Association (EIA), state agencies, local building code inspectors, fire departments, and other groups to inform stakeholders and to encourage voluntary compliance with both federal and local regulations. Similar efforts with these groups have been successful recently.
3.5 Medical/Health Issues
Background: The early evolution of the health effects related to exposure is summarized in Appendix B. There continue to be inconsistent perceptions among the public about the health effects associated with asbestos. Frequently references are made in the lay press to “asbestos disease,” rather than the recognition of several different health effects associated with asbestos exposure. While it is beyond the scope of this study to address technical risk assessment issues, comments from participants stressed that more precision and clarity of information is needed with risk assessment issues.
Depending on the specific disease, a threshold may exist below which symptoms would not be expected. Some diseases exhibit a classic linear dose-response relationship, while others do not. The potency of one form of asbestos may be greater for one disease than another form. The issue of fiber dimensions, surface characteristics, and other physical properties continue to be studied and debated today. Individual susceptibility is also an issue when considering asbestos related diseases. It appears unlikely that many of the health issues will be resolved in the near term.
The risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is also controversial in the scientific and medical communities. The risk is also inconsistently perceived by the public. At one extreme, some of the public perceive one asbestos fiber is sufficient to cause a fatal disease. While theoretically this appears possible, in reality such a risk is de minimus. At the other extreme are some who believe only massive long-term industrial exposures may result in disease.
In the U.S., regulatory agencies have always treated all the forms of asbestos (chrysotile and the amphiboles) the same. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) initially treated them the same for over 20 years, then issued more restrictive threshold limit values (TLVs) for the amphiboles, but reverted back to one TLV for all forms of asbestos in the 1990s. Most European countries treated all asbestos forms the same, then issued more restrictive requirements for the amphiboles, and now returned to treating them equally for regulatory purposes.
The background of medical and health issues would not be complete without mention of the effect litigation may have had on the scientific and medical literature. Recognition of this fact was evident in the Health Effects Institute Asbestos Research (HEI-AR) where that panel of experts felt it necessary to describe data as “litigation” and “non-litigation” data. On the positive side, litigation has provided financial support for many studies that otherwise may have not been performed. On the negative side, the financial support creates at a minimum the perception of bias by researchers, or may have prevented distribution of results not in the best interest of the research sponsor. Today, most reputable scientific and medical journals require disclosure of affiliations and funding prior to publication.
The relationship between fiber size and disease is being considered by ATSDR. This agency convened a panel of experts on October 29-30, 2002 to consider the health effects of asbestos and synthetic vitreous fibers: the influence of fiber length. The results of this investigation were unavailable during the drafting of this report. EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) sponsored a workshop from February 25-27, 2003 in San Francisco to discuss a proposed “Protocol to Assess Asbestos-Related Risk.” A Mechanism of Asbestos Toxicity conference is scheduled for mid-May.
Issues Remaining: This Asbestos Strategies process was not designed to identify or evaluate the many issues relating to health effects, diagnosis and treatment of disease, and the epidemiology of asbestos-related diseases. However, several issues were raised that are described below.
1. The need for early recognition and diagnosis of asbestos related diseases was raised as an issue. This issue is not as simple as it may appear. There is controversy over the use of various tests to diagnose disease, such as using Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scans. The use of repeated chest x-rays for people with little asbestos exposure is controversial. The question of which branch of the medical profession is best equipped to recognize the asbestos-related diseases is not resolved.
2. The need for epidemiology studies of populations with “low-level” exposures to asbestos was raised as an issue. This would include additional studies of workers in the vicinity of others who worked with asbestos, family members of asbestos exposed workers, and persons with short-term high-dose exposures.
3. The need for a national mesothelioma registry was raised as necessary. Closely related was the issue of clarifying malignant mesothelioma in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
4. The obvious issue of compensation for persons with asbestos-related diseases remains today, as it did 50 years ago. The mechanism of compensation, responsible parties, and the definition of fair compensation are all significant issues that are beyond the scope of this analysis and have been wrestled with in the courts and legislative bodies in the U.S. and worldwide.
Recommended Solutions: The following proposed solutions address only a fraction of the possible medical/health issues surrounding asbestos-related diseases.
1. A national mesothelioma registry is necessary to facilitate epidemiology studies to evaluate the effects of asbestos exposure. Many countries and some states have established mesothelioma registries. The establishment of such a registry would likely be performed by agencies within the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including the National Center for Health Statistics, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Center for Environmental Health, in conjunction with ATSDR and state public health departments. An accompanying effort to connect interested parties with the best experts and data would improve research and treatment of asbestos-related disease.
2. There is a need for an inventory of significant health-related research to ensure that interested parties can access experts wherever they are located. The CDC should lead this effort. In conjunction with the mesothelioma registry, this would improve research and treatment of asbestos-related disease.
3.6 Risk Assessment and Analysis
Background: Risk assessments have been performed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), OSHA, CPSC, EPA and ATSDR over the years in support of regulatory activities or research. The risk assessment area is controversial. Much of the controversy may stem from uncertainties in the source data the assessments are based on. The long latency period between exposure and onset of disease makes linking exposure concentrations, frequency and duration to disease difficult.
Much of the risk assessment exposure data were generated during asbestos mining, milling and product manufacturing. Most of this exposure data during the 1930s through the 1960s were generated using the impinger technique or the thermal precipitator. These methods expressed exposures in millions of particles per cubic foot of air (mppcf). In the late 1960s the method of choice changed to measuring fibers visible by the optical microscope with concentrations expressed as fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc). These early exposure measurement techniques assumed all particles, or all fibers were asbestos. In some workplaces most were likely asbestos, in other workplaces, most were likely not asbestos.
Since the onset of disease among asbestos exposed populations often occurs 30 years to 40 years later it is difficult to estimate the exposure(s) responsible for the disease. Since there are multiple diseases associated with asbestos exposure, and for lung cancer a recognized positive synergistic effect with cigarette smoking exists, the uncertainties are compounded.
The degree of risk posed by a substance is always a controversial subject. With substances such as asbestos, factual variables such as the specific form of the material and exposure pathways can vary widely, and oversimplification of risk characterization can be problematic. For example, if it is assumed that any increase in exposure represents some increase in risk, should all exposures be eliminated? Since there is some low exposure in the outside air, should only additional exposure be eliminated? Is there some increased exposure, and corresponding increase in disease that is considered “acceptable?”
The term “risk assessment” has been used when discussing the management of asbestos in buildings and in considering asbestos in products. Often it is used, perhaps erroneously, interchangeably with “exposure assessment” or “hazard assessment.” Exposure assessments are performed to measure airborne concentrations of asbestos. Hazard assessments look at current exposures and the potential for future exposures. Building owners use this information to develop asbestos management plans to reduce or minimize actual exposures, and hence to reduce or minimize actual risk.
The foregoing is a brief synopsis that only begins to suggest the range of risk assessment issues relevant to asbestos. Studies of this subject are on-going worldwide and will likely continue for decades to come. Areas of research were listed in section 3.1 and 3.5 that are necessary to further define the risks associated with exposure to asbestos, particularly low-level exposures.
The EPA is currently reviewing the need to revise its risk assessment methodology for asbestos. The agency convened a panel of experts to consider whether this methodology can be used to support decisions about asbestos contaminated sites. This panel met February 25-27, 2003 in San Francisco, California. The results of this investigation were unavailable during the drafting of the Asbestos Strategies report.
Issues Remaining: There are numerous issues surrounding risk assessments for asbestos. One identified during this process was the public’s perception of exposure and risk. Another concern is that it may often be important to assess the risk in terms of the potential for exposure, not simply measured air levels.
1. The EPA and OSHA should consult with each other and leading scientists to obtain the best sense of the science and then employ education and outreach to provide reliable risk communication to the regulated community and the public. Commentors indicate that following the World Trade Center attacks federal agencies may have underestimated the risks out of concern to control the public’s perceived risk. A backlash followed inside and outside some agencies, which may have overstated the risks.
3.7 Analytical Issues
Background: For at least 75 years there have been issues relating to how best to measure asbestos in bulk materials, soils, dust, water and air. The methods of analysis have evolved and many have become regulatory requirements.
Polarized light microscopy (PLM) is commonly used to measure asbestos in bulk materials. It is inexpensive (about $10 per analysis in commercial laboratories) and a quality assurance program administered by NIST is in place. The method can identify asbestos in many bulk materials down to 1 percent reliably. False negative results (i.e., not finding the asbestos) are common in some bulk materials when the asbestos is very small or concealed in a matrix, such as floor tile or roofing tar. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has gained wider acceptance to confirm or deny the presence of asbestos in bulk materials at a cost of about $50-75 per sample, but getting reliable quantitative data from this technique has been questioned.
Air samples are generally collected on a filter and analyzed by phase contrast microscopy (PCM) or TEM. The PCM method is inexpensive (about $15.00 per analysis) but does not distinguish asbestos from other fibers. PCM also only looks at bundles of fibers longer than 5 micrometers in length since the optical microscope cannot resolve, or “see,” individual fibrils of chrysotile asbestos for example. TEM only counts asbestos fibers and has the ability to detect all sizes of fibers. TEM remains more expensive than PCM, but its cost has come down markedly over the past 15 years from about $500 per sample to $100 per sample today.
A large number of dust samples were taken after the World Trade Center collapse and the results were quoted extensively. There are no regulatory standards for dust samples, and the recognized method for dust sampling (ASTM D5755) does not include criteria for interpreting the results. Nonetheless, decisions were made regarding levels of asbestos contamination and the effectiveness of clean-up on the basis of dust sampling results. In the event of large-scale fiber release episodes from deliberate or accidental causes in the future, building owners and local regulatory officials are likely to look to EPA for guidance in using dust sampling and interpreting the results.
Recommended Solutions: Many of the technical issues surrounding sampling and analytical issues are addressed as they arise by professional associations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA); and federal agencies such as EPA, NIOSH, OSHA (Salt Lake City, Utah laboratory), and NIST (NVLAP program).
1. Federal agencies should continue to actively participate and support the efforts of professional associations in the development, revision, and quality assurance practices relating to sampling and analytical methods for asbestos.
4.0 IMPLEMENTATION OF RECOMMENDED SOLUTIONS
The recommended solutions identified during this process are listed and described in section 3.0. In discussing each recommendation the primary involved parties are identified. For consistency and follow-through it is appropriate one agency take the lead in implementing the recommendations. The EPA is the logical choice in many cases since their role involves most, if not all, of the issues identified.
For the recommended solutions the EPA should establish working groups composed of representatives from government agencies and other stakeholders identified as critical to the success of the project. EPA should call upon a range of organizations to support to this effort. Many of these organizations may be willing to conduct awareness seminars and to assemble panels of experts as necessary to implement the recommendations provided. Listed below are some of the key groups that may be valuable participants:
• Federal government agencies – EPA, OSHA, MSHA, CPSC, NIOSH, NIST, National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDC, ATSDR
• State government agencies involved with asbestos
• Local government agencies involved with asbestos
• Professional associations – EIA, ASTM, AIHA, National Institute of Building Science (NIBS), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), NCSL
• Current asbestos product manufacturers – Asbestos Information Association/North America (AIA/NA)
• Mining and mineral processing companies and/or associations
• Representatives of organized labor
• Other groups or individuals having special expertise in the specific recommended proposed solution