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EPA's Region 6 Office

Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations


What is Asbestos?

The term "asbestos" describes six naturally occuring fibrous minerals found in certain types of rock formations. It is a mineral compound of silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, and various metal cations. Of the six types, the minerals chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite have been most commonly used in building products. When mined and processed, asbestos is typically separated into very thin fibers. When these fibers are present in the air, they are normally invisible to the naked eye. Asbestos fibers are commonly mixed during processing with a material which binds them together so that they can be used in many different products. Because these fibers are so small and light, they may remain in the air for many hours if they are released from the asbestos containing material (ACM) in a building.

Asbestos became a popular commercial product to manufacturers and builders in the early 1900's to the 1970's. Asbestos is durable, fire retardant, resists corrosion, and insulates well. It is estimated that 3,000 different types of commercial products contain some amount of asbestos. The use of asbestos ranges from paper products and brake linings to floor tiles and thermal insulation.

Intact and undisturbed (ACM) does not pose a health risk. Asbestos becomes a problem when, due to damage, disturbance, or deterioration over time, the material releases fibers into the air.

Asbestos fibers can cause serious health problems. If inhaled, these tiny fibers can impair normal lung functions, and increase the risk of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis. It could take anywhere from 20 to 30 years after the first exposure for symptoms to occur. Severe health problems from exposure have been experienced by workers who held jobs in industries such as shipbuilding, mining, milling, and fabricating.

Regulations Governing Asbestos.


The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) first authorized EPA to regulate asbestos in schools and Public and Commercial buildings under Title II of the law, also known as the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA).


The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requires Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material (ACBM) and prepare management plans to reduce the asbestos hazard. The Act also established a program for the training and accreditation of individuals performing certain types of asbestos work. Requirements for Schools.


The Asbestos School Hazard Abatement and Reauthorization Act (ASHARA) reauthorized AHERA and made some minor changes in the Act. It also reauthorized the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act.


The Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act (ASHAA) of 1984 provided loans and grants to help financially needy public and private schools correct serious asbestos hazards. This program was funded from 1985 until 1993. There have been no funds appropriated since that date.


Pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1970, EPA established the Asbestos National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). It is intended to minimize the release of asbestos fibers during activities involving the handling of asbestos. It specifies work practices to be followed during renovation, demolition or other abatement activities when friable asbestos is involved.

Other Government Agency References

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

1910.1001 Exit EPA applies to all occupational exposures to asbestos in all industries covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. (except for construction work as defined in 29 CFR 1910.12(b). Exposure to asbestos in construction work is covered by 29 CFR 1926.1101)

The Asbestos Advisor Exit EPA is an interactive compliance assistance tool. Once installed on your PC, it can interview you about buildings and worksites, and the kinds of tasks workers perform there. It will produce guidance on how the asbestos standard may apply to those buildings and that work. Its guidance depends on your answers. It can provide general guidance and may, also, be focused on a particular project. It provides popup-definitions through "hypertext", just press the F1 key.


Quick Facts

Fact 1

Although asbestos is hazardous, human risk of asbestos disease depends upon exposure.

Fact 2

Removal is often not the best course of action to reduce asbestos exposure. In fact, an improper removal can create a dangerous situation where none previously existed.

Fact 3

EPA only requires removal in order to prevent significant public exposure to asbestos, such as during building renovation or demolition.

Fact 4

EPA recommends in place management whenever asbestos is discovered. Instead of removal, implementation of a management plan will usually control fiber release when materials are not significantly damaged and are not likely to be disturbed.

Additional Information


If you have any questions concerning asbestos or would like to report illegal or improper asbestos activity, contact:

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