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Ask the Contractor: Asbestos is still common today
Learn more at free July 18 seminar

Inasmuch as the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, along with the Asbestos Institute, will be presenting a free seminar in town Thursday, July 18, we felt our column is timely to address a few top questions about asbestos.

Do you own or are you thinking of buying a building that may have asbestos? Do you know about the potential damage it may cause to your health and your bottom line?

To reduce the risk of expensive removal and exposure to asbestos, it is important to learn about the possible presence and the condition of asbestos in your structure. We know there is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding the dangers of asbestos; however, air quality experts are well-versed in answering questions.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions with answers about asbestos.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring group of minerals that are structured as bundles of fibers. There are six primary types of asbestos: Chrysotile, Amosite (brown asbestos), Crocidolite (blue asbestos), Tremolite, Anthophyllite and Actinolite.

What are asbestos fibers?

An asbestos fiber is a particulate form of asbestos that is five micrometers or longer, with a length-to-diameter ratio of 3 to 1. Disturbed fibers may become airborne and remain airborne for long periods of time because of their size, shape and low density — which makes them undetectable by the naked eye.

What are the health risks?

Health risks are presented when asbestos fibers become airborne, increasing the chance of inhalation. Upon inhalation, asbestos fibers build up in the lungs and make it difficult to breathe. Asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer are three of the most common and most serious health issues associated with asbestos exposure. Undisturbed asbestos fibers are unlikely to pose health risks to occupants of the building. As long as it is in good condition, asbestos fibers should not become airborne, therefore decreasing the risk of inhalation.

What is ACM?

ACM stands for asbestos-containing material. ACM is defined as any material containing more than 1% asbestos. Out of the six primary types of asbestos, Chrysotile makes up 95% of all asbestos in use. Chrysotile is used in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors of homes and businesses.

Where is asbestos common?

Prior to the 1980s, asbestos was a common component used in building material, automotive parts, and textiles because of its fire-resistant, durable and flexible nature. It is no longer mined or processed in the United States but is still used in vinyl floor tiles, brake pads, and cement pipes.

There also are many materials that are still legally used in construction, renovation and demolition processes. Piping, spray-applied and blown-in insulation, mastic, roofing material, caulking, and exterior building materials, cement siding, HVAC duct insulation, roofing shingles, spackling compounds and fireproofing materials are a few.

Wasn’t asbestos use banned by 1980?

The EPA banned most asbestos-containing products in the U.S. in 1989. However, the rule was vacated in 1991, which overturned bans on the manufacture, importation, processing and distribution in commerce. Only the bans on corrugated paper, roll board, commercial paper, specialty paper and flooring felt remained under the 1989 rule. While the production and use of asbestos has significantly declined, most asbestos-containing products can still be legally manufactured, imported, processed and distributed in the U.S.

Does ACM need to be identified during a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?

Identification of asbestos is not part of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) E-1527 standards. While it is not required to identify asbestos during a Phase I ESA, it may be a good idea to incorporate an asbestos survey in any due diligence period if there is concern.

Does the ACM need to be sampled and identified prior to renovation/demolition?

Yes, especially in cases where the material will be disturbed or the building is going to be demolished. EPA recommends a visual and physical evaluation of ACM during the inspections to note the ACM’s current condition and physical characteristics. Through this inspection, it is possible to determine or assess the likelihood of future fiber release.

There are instances where it is not necessary to remove asbestos from a commercial building prior to renovation/demolition. If the total amount of asbestos to be removed is less than 260 linear feet, 160 square feet, or 35 cubic feet off of facility components, the asbestos does not need to be removed, so as to avoid disturbance and prevent fibers from becoming airborne.

Can I collect my own samples and remove asbestos myself?

Most states allow homeowners of the residence to collect samples and remove asbestos without any special licensing or training, though it may not be a wise decision, as it is dangerous to your health. However, sampling and removal of asbestos from a commercial structure must be done by a licensed professional.

Does an ACM survey need to be completed in order to obtain a building demolition permit?

Yes, a full ACM survey is required per most building demolition permits, as well as a lead survey. Information gathered during the thorough inspection allows the owner or operator to determine which requirements of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for asbestos will apply to the demolition or renovation project. The asbestos NESHAP prohibits the reinstallation or installation of any insulating materials that contain commercial asbestos if the materials are either molded and friable or wet-applied and friable after drying. It is not recommended that other asbestos-containing materials be reused.

What is a Positive Stop Analysis?

Positive Stop Analysis refers to a laboratory analysis protocol that analyzes multiple samples of similar material and stops analysis when asbestos is identified at concentrations greater than 1%. This can lower the overall cost of an inspection by directing the laboratory to stop further analysis of additional samples collected from the similar material.

Education is the key to protecting your real estate investment. Attend this free asbestos seminar taking place in Prescott, at the Yavapai County office building, 1015 Fair St., Thursday, July 18. The seminar is from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and meals will be provided. To register online, visit

Remember to tune in to the Yavapai County Contractors Association’s “Hammer Time” at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday on KQNA 1130 AM, 99.9 FM, 95.5 FM or the web at Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry, meet your local community partners and so much more. What a great way to start your weekend.

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