EPA's Five Facts Regarding Asbestos


To put the potential hazard and risk of asbestos exposure in proper perspective, the EPA published the following five facts, which they hope will help calm the unwarranted fears that a number of people seem to have about the mere presence of asbestos in buildings.

  • Fact One:

    • Although asbestos is hazardous, the risk of asbestos-related disease depends upon exposure to airborne asbestos.

      In other words, an individual must breathe asbestos fibers in order to incur any chance of developing an asbestos-related disease. How many fibers a person must breathe to develop disease is uncertain. However, at very low exposure levels, the risk may be negligible or zero.

  • Fact Two:

    • Based on available data, the average airborne asbestos levels in buildings seem to be very low. Accordingly, the health risk to most building occupants also appears to be very low.
  • Fact Three:

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

      By their nature, asbestos removals tend to elevate the airborne level of asbestos fibers. Unless safeguards are properly applied, a removal operation can actually increase rather than decrease the risk of asbestos-related disease.

  • Fact Four:

    • EPA only requires asbestos removal in order to prevent significant public exposure to airborne asbestos fibers during building demolition or renovation projects.
  • Fact Five:

    • EPA and OSHA recommend a proactive, in-place management program whenever asbestos-containing material is discovered.

      Management of asbestos in-place means having a program to ensure that the day-to-day management of the building minimizes release of asbestos fibers into the air, and ensures that if asbestos fibers are released, either accidentally or intentionally, proper control and cleanup procedures are implemented.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Managing Asbestos in Place--A Building Owner's Guide to Operations and Maintenance Programs for Asbestos-Containing Materials, 20T-2003, July 1990.


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Updated April 20, 2006