Asbestos and Other Regulated Building Materials

Building materials can contain a number of hazardous components that, if disturbed, can pose a health risk to workers and occupants.

Regulated building materials pose no health risk when left alone and intact; however, during maintenance, renovation or demolition, materials that may pose health risks must be managed, abated and disposed of appropriately according to regulations.

Regulated building materials include, but are not be limited to:

  • Asbestos
  • Lead containing paint or components
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Fluorescent light ballasts
  • Mercury containing fluorescent lamps
  • Mercury thermostats/switches
  • Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants
  • Silica dust from disturbed concrete, stucco, stone products, ceramic tile, drywall and plaster

Regulated building materials may exist in building materials such as walls, floors, ceilings, insulation, caulk, glazing, mastic, paint, light fixtures, fireproofing, equipment and other materials. During building renovation, demolition or maintenance, specific federal, state, and local health and safety regulations governing these materials will apply to workers, including training, work practices, disposal, and other regulations. 

The UW Administrative Policy Statement 12.1, Managing Asbestos and Other Regulated Building Materials, applies at all locations including, but not limited to: the Seattle campus, UW Bothell, UW Tacoma, UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, jointly-owned facilities; all other University-owned, managed, or operated properties; University leased space as tenant or landlord; and research vessels that are owned or operated by the University.

This policy clarifies and guides departments in their roles and responsibilities to ensure compliance with regulated building material regulations. Failure to follow regulations could cause possible exposure and health issues or result in clean-up costs, regulatory fines, and increased risk of liability to the University.

Detailed information about specific regulated building materials and their management is given in referenced documents below.

 

What you need to know

EH&S has overall responsibility to assure compliance with the regulations that govern the management of regulated building materials.   

However, it is the responsibility of each organizational unit and/or department involved in the planning, leasing or selling of real estate, capital construction and demolition projects, maintenance, repair and renovation of University properties to develop specific safety plans that meet the requirements of all EH&S policies and procedures for the management of all regulated building materials.

Many of the buildings on the campus were constructed in the mid 1900’s with Denny Hall being the oldest building, constructed in 1894. Asbestos was used during the construction of buildings through the 1970’s, thus many buildings on campus are known to have asbestos-containing building materials. These materials are routinely inspected, and if in poor condition, it is removed or clearly labeled in restricted areas. Remaining asbestos-containing materials are in good physical condition.

While intact, asbestos does not pose a hazard, but if disturbed, an individual can develop mesothelioma or lung cancer if chronically exposed to airborne asbestos fibers. Due to the presence of the variety and prevalence of asbestos-containing materials on campus, EH&S has developed a University of Washington Asbestos Management Plan.  This plan specifies the requirements that all organizational units and departments must adhere to when managing asbestos-containing materials within their respective organizations.

Requirements for the management of other regulated building materials that may pose health and environmental hazards that are less prevalent than asbestos in building materials are covered in individual focus sheets.

 

Preventing exposure to asbestos-containing materials

All employees are required to take the online asbestos awareness training when hired.

Respect warning signs and labels. They are required to indicate asbestos-containing materials or where access is restricted to spaces above ceilings, shafts, concealed spaces, restricted areas or where unlabeled asbestos-containing materials are present.

Report to your facilities department, or on the Seattle campus, report to the Facilities Services Regulated Materials Management Office, any damaged building materials that contain or are presumed to contain asbestos, such as ceiling tiles, floor tiles, insulation and fireproofing.

Comply with UW Administrative Policy Statement (APS) 56.6 Alterations to UW Seattle Campus Buildings and Grounds. Always request a survey for regulated building materials before any alterations or renovations to a building occur, including but not limited to:

  • Hanging pictures
  • Installing cabinets
  • Installing bookshelves
  • Modifying doors, walls, ceilings, etc.

Requirements for workers to prevent exposures

Take required training specific for the types of regulated building materials you may be exposed to while working.

Follow safe work practices and wear your personal protective equipment (PPE).

Notify your supervisor if you encounter potential regulated building materials where not expected or anticipated.

Report any work-related injury or illness to your supervisor as soon as possible. Then report it to EH&S via the UW Online Accident Reporting System (OARS) within 24 hours.

Services available

EH&S provides air sampling for establishing initial exposure determinations for workers potentially exposed to regulated building materials during their work activities. A negative exposure assessment can result in reducing the level of respiratory protective equipment required for a specific activity and condition.

Contact

For health and safety information and specific guidelines and procedures regarding asbestos-containing materials and regulated building materials, contact EH&S at 206.543.7262 or ehsdept@uw.edu.

Contact the Facilities Services Regulated Materials Management Office at 206.685.3357 to report suspected damage to asbestos-containing materials or regulated building materials.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Asbestos is a generic term for six different naturally occurring mineral formations which have the common characteristic of their crystalline structure being able to be separated into long, thin fibers. The fibers can be curved (serpentine asbestos, or chrysotile) or straight, “needle-like” fibers (the amphiboles). Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos in the United States and has been mined in various locations in the United States, including Washington State. Asbestos fibers are present in the air throughout the United States. This is partly due to fibers broken from exposed asbestos containing rocks, but more has been released from asbestos containing products, such as, vehicle brakes.

Asbestos was called the “miracle mineral” due to its many unique physical properties. Asbestos was added to many building materials because of its ability to retard fire, strengthen products, and acoustically insulate.

Asbestos use in building materials peaked in the years following World War II through the 1970’s. Asbestos may still be found in new buildings. Asbestos is currently regulated by the WA State Dept. of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH), the EPA, and other government agencies

 

It is the unique physical shape of asbestos that gave it many practical applications and also makes asbestos hazardous. Asbestos is harmful if the fibers become airborne and are inhaled. Fibrous asbestos can fracture into fibers small enough that they can penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can interact with the body to cause cancer or other illnesses. Asbestos containing materials that are intact and in good condition are not hazardous to building occupants under normal conditions.

Microscopically small asbestos fibers can be inhaled deep into the lungs and lodge there. After many years, lung cancer or mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) may develop. If you inhale large quantities of asbestos over several years, you could develop asbestosis which progressively makes breathing more difficult, or develop pleural plaques which make it difficult to evaluate lung x-rays. If you swallow large amounts of asbestos, some studies show there may be an increased risk of developing cancers in different organs associated with the throat and gastro-intestinal tract.

Only a few asbestos products are actually banned in the United States. You can still easily buy many asbestos products. The University is minimizing procurement of asbestos products as much as possible. However, we cannot guarantee that new building materials on campus are “asbestos-free.” Items purchased or installed before 1980, most likely contain asbestos.

It is not possible to visually determine if a material contains asbestos. The presence of asbestos can only be determined by specific sampling and analytical procedures conducted by qualified individuals.

Due to their mineralogical properties of having high strength, being an excellent insulator for heat and electricity, being able to resist heat without damage, being fairly good at resisting corrosion, and also having the ability to be woven into fabric, asbestos has been added to many different materials commonly used in buildings and different products. It can be found in literally thousands of types of products from building fireproofing to hand-held hair dryers.

Yes. Asbestos was used during the construction of buildings through the 1970’s. Many buildings on campus are known to have asbestos containing building materials in good physical condition. Hundreds of asbestos removal projects have been conducted at the University. As long as asbestos-containing material remains on campus, the University will monitor the condition and safe removal of asbestos.

The University is taking several steps to ensure a safe and healthy work and academic environment. The University maintains a historical database of asbestos samples collected. Only licensed asbestos abatement contractors are authorized to perform asbestos abatement at the University. Additionally, qualified environmental consultants are retained to monitor the work methods of these licensed asbestos abatement contractors during asbestos removal activities.

Also, University maintenance and custodial staff receive asbestos awareness training to be knowledgeable in the identification and proper practices to use when working around asbestos containing materials.

 

  • You should be aware of the fact that there is still asbestos present, and may be found in buildings you occupy.
  • You should be aware that if asbestos is intact and in good condition and you do not break it loose from the surrounding material, asbestos fibers will not be released into the air where you could inhale them.
  • Refrain from damaging floors, walls, and ceilings that could possibly contain asbestos.
  • Do not rip items off walls or rip up carpeting since they can be glued with adhesive that could possibly contain asbestos.
  • If you notice damaged floor tile, walls, ceilings, or pipe insulation, inform your supervisor or the building coordinator, who can contact Facility Services for repair action.
  • If you have personal items that contain asbestos, maintain them in such a way that they do not become damaged.

More Information

Glossary

includes chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite asbestos, anthophyllite asbestos, actinolite asbestos, and any of these minerals that have been chemically treated and/or altered.

means any material containing more than one percent asbestos. Common examples of ACM include but are not limited to: pipe and boiler insulation, sprayed on fireproofing, troweled on acoustical plaster, floor tile and mastic, floor linoleum, transite shingles, roofing materials, wall and ceiling plaster, ceiling tiles, and gasket materials.

is provided for employees who conduct asbestos work that is not considered an asbestos project or is excluded from asbestos worker certification.

includes the construction, demolition, repair, remodeling, maintenance, or renovation of any public or private building or structure, mechanical piping equipment or system involving the demolition, removal, encapsulation, salvage, or disposal of material or outdoor activity releasing or likely to release asbestos fibers into the air.

is an inspection by certified inspectors which is conducted to determine whether materials to be worked on or removed contain asbestos.

refers to activities that disrupt the matrix of ACM or PACM, crumble or pulverize ACM or PACM, or generate visible debris from ACM or PACM. This term includes activities that disrupt the matrix of ACM or PACM, render ACM or PACM friable, or generate visible debris. Disturbance includes cutting away small amounts of ACM or PACM, no greater than the amount that can be contained in one standard size glove bag or waste bag in order to access a building or vessel component. In no event shall the amount of ACM or PACM so disturbed exceed that which can be contained in one glove bag or waste bag which shall not exceed 60 inches in length and width.

is an item containing asbestos that is able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry.

means that the ACM has not crumbled, been pulverized, or otherwise deteriorated so that the asbestos is no longer likely to be bound with its matrix. Friable ACM that is disturbed is presumed to be no longer intact

means thermal system insulation and surfacing material found in buildings, vessels, and vessel sections constructed no later than 1980 that are assumed to contain greater than one percent asbestos but have not been sampled or analyzed to verify or negate the presence of asbestos.

Materials regulated by law because of potential health and environmental risks. RBM includes asbestos containing materials, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other materials that exist in building materials including, but not limited to, walls, floors, ceilings, insulation, caulk, glazing, mastic, paint, light fixtures, fireproofing, and equipment.

are areas designated by EH&S as off-limits to University employees and others because of contamination with ACM debris or where entry into the area may damage ACM due to its condition or close proximity to workers.

means material that is sprayed, troweled-on, or otherwise applied to surfaces (such as acoustical plaster on ceilings and fireproofing materials on structural members, or other materials on surfaces for acoustical, fireproofing, and other purposes).

means ACM applied to pipes, fittings, boilers, breaching, tanks, ducts, or other structural components to prevent heat loss or gain

Contact

Environmental Health & Safety Department

(206) 543-7262