Select your state

Real property

asbestos removal

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals found in rock and soil. Mined and milled from native rock, asbestos is fibrous, thin, and strong. Chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite fibers are the most common types of asbestos minerals. But only chrysotile, crocidolite, and amosite varieties are of industrial importance.

Characteristics, like heat resistance, chemical inertness, and insulating capacity, coupled with the flexibility to be woven make asbestos suitable for use in many industrial applications.

Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. Asbestos has also been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.

Where Asbestos May be Found

Asbestos may be found in places such as:

• Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite

• Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives

• Roofing and siding shingles

• Textured paint and patching compounds used on walls and ceilings

• Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets

• Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape

• Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation

• Heat-resistant fabrics

• Automobile clutches and brakes

• Schools

• Workplaces

• Drinking Water

• Air

How can people be exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.

Health Effects from Exposure to Asbestos

Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects.

Disease Symptoms May Take Many Years to Develop Following Exposure

Asbestos-related conditions can be difficult to identify. Healthcare providers usually identify the possibility of asbestos exposure and related health conditions like lung disease by taking a thorough medical history. This includes looking at the person’s medical, work, cultural and environmental history.

After a doctor suspects an asbestos-related health condition, he or she can use a number of tools to help make the actual diagnosis. Some of these tools are physical examination, chest x-ray and pulmonary function tests. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats diseases caused by asbestos.

Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are:

• lung cancer

• mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining of the lung, chest and the abdomen and heart

• asbestosis, a serious progressive, long-term, non-cancer disease of the lungs

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Program

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Superfund program addresses abandoned hazardous waste sites. The Agency can clean up sites or compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanups under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Asbestos in the environment may be addressed by the Superfund program if it is the result of past industrial operations or improper waste disposal. For a long time, asbestos was part of many building materials and commercial products and may still be used in some applications. Asbestos became a popular product because it is strong, won’t burn, resists corrosion and insulates well.

Manufacturing and processing facilities are often a source of asbestos, as are other products known to contain asbestos (such as vermiculite). Asbestos products may also deteriorate over time, or buildings may be demolished without first properly removing the asbestos-containing material. In some places, asbestos is a naturally occurring substance. EPA’s website provides more asbestos-related information for communities, schools, building owners and managers, and asbestos professionals.

Where the asbestos is naturally occurring or there is concern regarding asbestos from in-place building materials, response actions to address these sites under Superfund are expressly limited under CERCLA §104(a)(3), 42 U.S.C. §9604(a)(3). For these cases, EPA reviews site-specific conditions to determine if a removal or response action under CERCLA is appropriate.

In most cases, removal of asbestos-containing building materials in place is regulated through a different EPA program, Section 112 of the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs).

Asbestos contamination may be addressed under the removal or remediation programs as outlined in Superfund. Consistent with addressing other contaminants under Superfund, actions taken for asbestos-contaminated sites are informed by estimates of the health risk from site contamination for current and future land use. To aid in risk-based site evaluation, EPA has developed a framework for investigating asbestos-contaminated Superfund sites.

In the past, EPA response actions often addressed conditions where materials containing greater than 1 percent asbestos were present. But asbestos in soils at and below 1 percent may still pose unacceptable health risks depending on site-specific conditions and land use. Current EPA policy OSWER Directive 9345.4-05 recommends development of site-specific, risk-based action levels to determine if response actions should be taken when asbestos levels below 1 percent are found at a site.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber historically used in various building materials and products due to its durability, fire resistance, and insulating properties. In Texas, asbestos regulation is primarily governed by the Texas Asbestos Health Protection Rules (TAHPR) and federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. The TAHPR, administered by the Texas Department of State Health Services, sets standards for asbestos abatement, licensing, and accreditation procedures. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also plays a role through the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) and the Superfund program, which can address asbestos contamination from industrial operations or improper waste disposal. Exposure to asbestos can lead to serious health issues, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. In Texas, any demolition or renovation activities that may involve asbestos-containing materials must comply with state and federal regulations to prevent asbestos exposure and protect public health.

Legal articles related to this topic