Asbestos

Asbestos

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. Asbestos has been used in the manufacture of insulation, fire-proofing materials and building materials (e.g., floor and ceiling tiles, transite wall panels and wall board joint compound) and friction materials (e.g., automotive brake pads and clutches).

There are six naturally occurring mineral forms of asbestos which are sorted into two major types.

  • Amphibole asbestos group contains: amosite ("brown" or "grey" asbestos), crocidolite ("blue" asbestos), tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite.

  • Serpentine asbestos group contains one type: chrysotile ("white" asbestos).

95% of the asbestos that was used in manufacturing in the United States was of the chrysotile type.

What are the health hazards of asbestos?

Occupational exposure to asbestos can result in asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a chronic inflammation and scarring of the lungs caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart.

The OSH Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for asbestos is 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter (0.1 f/cc) of air as an 8 hour time-weighted average (TWA). In addition, the employer must ensure that during any 30 minute sampling period no employee is exposed above 1.0 f/cc as averaged concentration. This additional exposure limit is referred to as the Excursion Limit (EL).

What are the physical hazards of asbestos?

Because asbestos is chemically inert and exists as a mineral, there are no known physical hazards associated with it use.

Solutions

Solutions

What can I do to protect myself?

Employees working with asbestos-containing materials (ACM) or materials presumed to contain asbestos must be trained by their employer about the hazards of asbestos and how they might become exposed to airborne asbestos fibers through their job duties. They must be provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (e.g., Tyvek suits, respirators) and engineering controls (e.g., exhaust ventilation through HEPA filtration) to maintain exposure to or below the PEL. Whenever respiratory protection is required, the employer must also implement a respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of the respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134.  In addition, all construction work that involves asbestos-containing material or presumed asbestos-containing material must be supervised by a competent person who has received asbestos training in addition to that required for asbestos-workers.

What resources are available to employers?

A Guide to Asbestos in Industry (Industry Guide #17) can be downloaded and used for employee training. This publication covers occupational exposure to asbestos in construction and in general industry.

Presentations that may also be applicable include hazard communication, respiratory protection, and personal protective equipment. In addition, example programs applicable to occupational exposure to asbestos and can be customized to fit individual workplaces include hazard communication program, respiratory protection program and PPE hazard assessment.

Additional resources can be found on the A-Z topics pages for respiratory protection, hazard communication, and personal protective equipment.

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.

Regulations

Regulations

What standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards for occupational exposure to asbestos in North Carolina:

In addition, the following standards may also apply to employee exposure to asbestos:

  • 29 CFR 1910.132 - personal protective equipment, general requirements - general industry

  • 29 CFR 1910.134 - respiratory protection - general industry, maritime and construction

  • 29 CFR 1910.1020 - access to employee exposure and medical records - general industry, maritime and construction

  • 29 CFR 1910.1200 - hazard communication - general industry, maritime and construction

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-807-2875.