ASBESTOS-FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

What is asbestos?

How are people exposed to asbestos?

What are the health risks of asbestos?

How big is the risk?

What is the Army Asbestos Program?

How are Army families educated about asbestos?

How does the installation identify asbestos-containing materials?

How does the installation control asbestos-containing materials?

How does medical surveillance work?

What regulations and guidance does the Army follow?

What sort of training is required for managing asbestos-containing materials?

Where can I get more information?

If you have any unanswered questions, please send them to the appropriate Point Of Contact based on the subject of your question.  Select the subject from the drop-down menu below.
  

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a name used for several kinds of rock that are found naturally as clumps of fibers. Asbestos has been known since ancient times. It has been valued for its excellent fireproofing, insulating, and reinforcing properties. It was used until about 1980 in a large number of materials and products that needed these properties. In particular, it was used in many building materials, including insulation, patching cement, sprayed-on fireproofing, floor tiles, siding, shingles, and textured paint.

Recent changes in the law have reduced or eliminated the use of asbestos in buildings and elsewhere. Army facilities that were built after 1980 are very unlikely to contain asbestos in any form. Because of its many past uses, asbestos is still present in many of our older buildings and throughout our environment.

However, the age of a building doesn't tell us whether it contains asbestos. Asbestos wasn't consistently used in any building material, and asbestos can't be identified by its appearance alone. Glass and other mineral fibers were used and still are used for the same purposes as asbestos, and they often look like asbestos.

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How are people exposed to asbestos?

We are all exposed to low levels of asbestos because it has been spread throughout our environment.

Only a small number of workers are routinely exposed to asbestos in their jobs. In the Army, on-the-job exposures are mainly in building construction, maintenance, renovation, or demolition work. Replacing asbestos clutch and brake pads in older trucks that are still found at some Army, Reserve, and National Guard motor pools is a source of occasional exposures. Using proper protective measures ensures that the risk to workers is minimal, and that they won't take asbestos home on their clothing.

Other people may live or work in older buildings that contain asbestos. As long as proper care is taken with asbestos-containing materials in these buildings, these people are not exposed to significant amounts of asbestos.

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What are the health risks of asbestos?

Workers used to mine and process asbestos, or install and tear out asbestos-containing materials without any protection. The air they breathed was heavy with asbestos dust, and some of them developed serious diseases.  This sometimes happened years after they were exposed.  These diseases include a lung disease called asbestosis, which is similar to emphysema, and cancer in the lungs, chest, or digestive system. Combining smoking with asbestos exposures multiplies the risk of lung cancer.

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How big is the risk?

The amount of risk depends on how much asbestos is in the air that people breathe, and how long they are exposed to it. The worst risks have been to workers who had uncontrolled exposures over months or years. Today, the risk to workers has been greatly reduced by recent laws that require employers to train them about the risk and keep their exposure to asbestos to a minimum.

Many people live and work in buildings that contain asbestos.  There could be a risk to them if this asbestos is carelessly released or spread around. Just because asbestos-containing materials are present in a building doesn't mean there is a risk to the people who live or work there. Asbestos-containing materials are safe if they are properly managed. This means knowing where they are, keeping them in good condition, and removing or enclosing them whenever they could become a risk.

Most people will never become ill from asbestos, even without special precautions. We know this because so many of us have lived and worked safely in older buildings containing asbestos, before there was much awareness about the risk. The precautions that are required by recent laws and by Army policy are designed to make sure that the risk from asbestos are as low as possible.

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What is the Army Asbestos Program?

The Army is committed to providing healthy living and working conditions for its families. The Army Asbestos Program meets this commitment by effectively managing and eliminating asbestos and its sources.

Each installation appoints a program coordinator and a management team that includes representatives from many different installation offices. This team develops and runs the installation asbestos program. Here are some of the key activities in each installation program:

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How are Army families educated about asbestos?

The installation tells building occupants about any repair or renovation work that will disturb asbestos-containing materials in their buildings. The installation may provide additional information through its public awareness and worker education programs. This pamphlet is part of your installation's educational program.

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How does the installation identify asbestos-containing materials?

The installation gathers information, identifies facilities that need to be checked, and plans asbestos surveys. During the surveys, trained asbestos inspectors inspect the facilities and collect samples of materials that may contain asbestos. The inspectors then evaluate the results and make recommendations to the installation asbestos team.

The survey report includes an exposure analysis and recommendations for controlling and eliminating possible asbestos exposures. Operations and maintenance plans help minimize exposures while asbestos-containing materials are still in place. Abatement plans help ensure that these materials are removed safely.

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How does the installation control asbestos-containing materials?

The installation team uses the information from asbestos surveys to plan effective ways to control asbestos. Asbestos-containing materials are removed during building repairs and renovations, or when asbestos cannot be controlled by other methods. New building materials that contain asbestos are not used.

Installations maintain, repair and protect asbestos-containing materials until they can be removed, checking them regularly to make sure they remain in good condition. Much of this work is accomplished simply by keeping buildings in good shape.

Whenever workers disturb asbestos-containing materials, they use special equipment and work methods to protect building occupants. They clean up carefully when they are done, and a trained inspector collects dust samples to make sure the space is safe for occupants to return.

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How does medical surveillance work?

Each clinic provides a pre-job and annual medical examination to personnel who are exposed to asbestos on the job, in accordance with regulations. Doctors check the lungs and review possible diseases and conditions that might be made worse by asbestos exposure. Clinics also help make sure that proper respirators and other protective measures are provided and used during asbestos work.

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What regulations and guidance does the Army follow?

The Army complies with regulations and guidance from:

The Army Asbestos Program is specified in the following Army Regulations, Technical Bulletin (Medical), and memorandum:

Installation teams use the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Center for Public Works Technical Bulletin (PWTB) 420-70-8, Installation Asbestos Hazard Management, for program guidance. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Guide Specifications (CEGS) are used to ensure successful asbestos control projects.

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What sort of training is required for managing asbestos-containing materials?

The Army makes sure that people who evaluate or abate asbestos-containing materials do their work effectively and safely. Federal and state regulations require specialized training and certification for the following jobs:

Installation team members who supervise or oversee contracts to do this work can also benefit from training in their areas of responsibility. The U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM) offers an interactive policy workshop that helps installation teams understand and apply Army policy and guidance.

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Where can I get more information?

For information about your installation's Asbestos Program, please contact your Installation Asbestos Coordinator.

For additional information, please contact the AEC hot line at 1-800-USA-3845.

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