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Asbestos awareness

Regulatory agencies

Environmental concerns:

EPA - Environmental Protection Agency (Federal)

DEQ - Department of Environmental Quality (State)

These environmental agencies are primarily concerned with protecting the public by controlling the releases of asbestos into the environment. The federal EPA rules are enforced by DEQ on the state level. EPA retains some authority in public and private schools (K through 12) under a federal standard known as AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act - 1986). The State DEQ requires the following:

  • Notification of removal projects both large and small scale. If for any reason the information submitted to DEQ changes, you must inform them of the change.
  • Proper waste disposal.
  • Wetting of material to meet the "no visible emission standard".
  • Removal of friable asbestos prior to demolition.
  • DEQ regulates certification and licensing for contractors, supervisors, workers (full scale and small scale) and training providers.

Safety and health concerns:

OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Federal)

OR-OSHA - Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (State)

Many of the recommended work practices and legal requirements for handling asbestos are

designed to protect the health and safety of workers. The actual asbestos rules are enforced by federal or state OSHA programs. Oregon has a number of specific rules in the following areas:

  • Establishing regulated areas
  • Air monitoring and exposure standards
  • Respiratory protection and protective clothing
  • Medical monitoring
  • Work practices
  • Warning signs and labels

Asbestos facts

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a generic term applied to naturally occurring fibrous hydrated mineral silicates. These minerals are regarded as hydrated because they are formed by their affinity for water. Asbestos is primarily mined in Canada and South Africa. The forms that are specifically covered by new regulations are:

  • Amosite
  • Chrysotile
  • Crocidolite
  • Tremolite
  • Anthohyllite
  • Actinolite

Asbestos has been used widely in building materials and in products that needed to be fireproof. In fact EPA, in 1985 estimated that 31,000 schools and some 733,000 commercial buildings had asbestos products in them. Asbestos was and is used because the mineral is:

  • Fire resistant, it cannot be destroyed by fire.
  • May be woven or used to provide strength and consistency to a product.
  • Resistant to chemicals.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Asbestos minerals are divided into two groups: serpentines and amphiboles. Chrysotile is the most commonly used type of asbestos and the only mineral in the serpentine group. The chrysotile form of asbestos is found in 95% of materials which contain asbestos. Amosite is the second most common type of asbestos in the amphibole group: crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite.

The amphiboles are hydrophobic, they do not like water. In most cases, fiber counts will be significantly higher when a removal project involves an amphibole. Wet methods must still be used even though it will not be as effective on amphiboles in controlling fiber release.

OR-OSHA regulates all six types of asbestos listed above. An asbestos fiber is defined by OR-OSHA as particulate form of asbestos, 5 microns or longer, with a length-to-diameter ratio of at least 3 to 1.

Asbestos is present in over 3,000 products. Asbestos containing material, or ACM is generally categorized as friable or nonfriable. Friable material can be easily crumbled by hand pressure. Nonfriable asbestos is more durable and will not easily break down unless some force is applied to the material. Any product which contains one percent (1%) asbestos requires the use of safe handling practices.

It is important to remember that the small asbestos fibers that are the most harmful are not visible to the eye. In addition, once fibers are released into the air they can take many hours to settle onto horizontal surfaces. If air movement is present fibers may never settle out and remain airborne almost indefinitely, posing a constant and invisible health hazard.

In the United States two primary forms of asbestos were widely used:


  • Resistance to heat and chemicals, and found extensively in pipe insulation, friction materials, roofing and flooring materials.
  • Characteristically a rigid, brittle fiber which cannot be woven.
  • Now banned in the US due to the higher cancer health risk associated with amosite (For new applications).


  • A long, wavy, hair-like fiber that is easily woven. Chrysotile is used in asbestos clothing products, and extensively in many forms of insulation.
  • The shorter mill-end material is now being substituted for amosite applications.

Where is asbestos material found?

Asbestos has been used in a host of commercial materials and is found in concrete building materials, paper products, roofing felts, pipe and boiler insulation, paints and coatings. The usage goes back to around the turn of the century.

Asbestos surveys were made in all areas of Linfield College and asbestos was removed from all areas where persons could be expected to go in the course of routine business (classes, lectures, events, etc.) at the College. Records of the surveys are kept on file in the Physical Plant building (Cozine) and are available upon request.

Any removal projects at the College requires State licensed workers who are required by law to wear special respirators and protective clothing during removal operations.

Asbestos and health effects

The primary effects from exposure to asbestos are to the respiratory system. Asbestos exposure is also linked to effects on the gastrointestinal system.

Asbestos is made up of fibers which are made up of bundles of smaller and smaller fibers called fibrils. When asbestos material is disturbed countless numbers of very small fibrils, microns in size (millionths of a meter), are released. Fibers 75 microns will be trapped in the nose and, FIBERS 15 microns are trapped in the bronchioles and lungs.

The actual particle size of the asbestos that is released is important because:

  • Once a small particle becomes airborne it can remain suspended almost indefinitely, even in a very still environment.
  • Particles of this size are carried into the deepest part of the lungs past the protective
    mechanisms in the nose, sinuses, and larynx.

The asbestos fibers are crystalline minerals and are very persistent which means that the fibers do not degrade in biological tissue. Once breathed deep into the lungs the fibers may remain there indefinitely.

The mechanism of damage to tissue appears to be associated with the mechanical irritation caused by the sharp ends of the fibers.

The most common diseases associated with asbestos exposures

  • Asbestos of the lung - a fibrotic degeneration of the lung, usually associated with chronic exposure to asbestos. The disease restricts the ability of the lungs to expand and causes scarring of the lung tissue. This causes progressive shortness of breath, respiratory failure, and cardiac decompensation, which is the heart's inability to maintain circulations because of reduced oxygen levels. The disease is progressive even in the absence of continued exposure to asbestos.
  • Lung Cancer - cancers of the lung are seen at higher incidence rates in individuals who have been exposed to asbestos. The incidence rate is 90 times greater for workers who smoked tobacco and were exposed to asbestos than workers only exposed to asbestos.
  • Mesothelioma of the lung pleura - this is a rare form of cancer which is almost entirely related to asbestos exposure. The disease is not curable and individuals with mesothelioma rarely live more than one year after diagnosis. Mesothelioma is not associated with smoking and may occur following exposure to low levels of asbestos and a level of dust exposure defined as a "safe" level for lung cancer risks.
  • Gastrointestinal Cancers - asbestos workers exhibit higher rates of cancers of the stomach, intestines, bowel, and rectum.
  • Pleural Plaques - plaques are seen on the X-Rays of asbestos workers. These are dense strands of collagen (connective tissue proteins) showing as opaque patches on the X-Rays. These plaques can be seen with no disease and do not reflect severity of disease tissue but indicate asbestos exposure.

There are those who contend that there is no safe limit for exposure to asbestos. The current epidemiologic studies, however, so suggest a typical dose-response relationship for most of the asbestos related diseases. Thus, the higher the exposure, the higher the incidence of disease is seen. Studies have also indicated a higher incidence of disease associated with amosite-type asbestos.

Relationship Of smoking And asbestos exposure

The 1985 Surgeon General's report on "The Health Consequences of Smoking - Cancer and the Chronic Lung Disease in the Workplace", reports on the research findings about the risk of developing lung cancer and lung diseases among asbestos exposed workers and asbestos exposed workers who smoke. The following conclusions were drawn by the report:

  1. Asbestos exposure can increase the risk of developing lung cancer in both cigarette smokers and nonsmokers. The risk in cigarette-smoking asbestos workers is greater than the sum of the risks of the independent exposure.
  2. The risk of developing lung cancer in asbestos workers increases with increasing number of cigarettes smoked per day and increasing cumulative asbestos exposure.
  3. The risk of developing lung cancer declines in asbestos workers who stop smoking; however, the risk of developing lung cancer appears to remain significantly elevated even 25 years after cessation of exposure
  4. Cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure appear to have an independent and additive effect on lung function decline. Nonsmoking asbestos workers have decreased total lung capacities (restrictive disease). Cigarette smokers develop both restrictive lung disease and chronic obstructive lung disease at a rate 90 times greater than non-smokers.
  5. Asbestos exposure in the predominant cause of interstitial fibrosis (asbestosis) in populations with substantial asbestos exposure.
  6. The promotion of smoking cessation should be an intrinsic part of efforts to control asbestos-related death and disability. For workers whom asbestos exposure has ceased, the single most important intervention that would alter their future disease risk is the cessation of cigarette smoking.

Latency Of disease To exposure

Asbestos related disease typically develop 30-40 years subsequent to the beginning of the exposure. Workers who have been heavily exposed have shown symptoms within 5-10 years, but this is not typical.

There are locations at Linfield which contain asbestos. Employees will not be asked to work in those areas during the normal course of employment. If there are any questions as to whether or not asbestos is present in any specific area of the College, a copy of the asbestos survey for that area may be obtained upon request to the Safety Department .

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