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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Asbestos? 

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals including its regulated fibrous forms: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, actinolite, and tremolite. The word asbestos is derived from the Greek language meaning inextinguishable.

How Is Asbestos Used / Where Would You Find It? 

Asbestos had been used in a variety of materials and applications for purposes of reinforcement, heat and cold insulation, condensation control, friction, fire protection, sound dampening, decoration, texturing, chemical resistance, and other applications. Asbestos was used in over 3500 types of materials. Some materials, such as vermiculite might be contaminated with asbestos naturally. Materials which contain more than 1% asbestos are called asbestos-containing materials (ACM). Typically, asbestos is found in thermal system insulation such as pipe and boiler insulation, surfacing material such as fireproofing and wallboard, and miscellaneous materials such as floor and ceiling tiles. In America, asbestos was used in a variety of materials from the late 1800s to the present; however, its use has declined. Contrary to popular belief, asbestos is not banned from certain products in America. Certain materials such as floor tile, linoleum, adhesives, roofing products, clutch and brake assemblies, etc, might contain asbestos. Prior to purchasing products or materials determine whether asbestos is present. Asbestos-containing materials are currently being used widely in developing and industrializing countries.

What Are Types of Asbestos Containing Materials?

You may have run across the terms friable and non-friable asbestos-containing materials. EPA’s NESHAP regulation defines friability as the ability of a dry asbestos-containing material to be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure. Examples of friable asbestos include thermal system insulation and spray-on fireproofing. Asbestos-containing materials such as floor tile, roofing, asbestos cement products, and gaskets are typically non-friable. Be aware that demolition and renovation activities can render nonfriable ACM friable, and thus, more regulated. Contact the Asbestos Control Program for more information.


What are some of the Health Concerns?

Asbestos is a health concern because it is a carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer. Asbestos can break down into very small fibers that can become airborne and stay airborne for a long time. Exposure generally occurs by inhalation or ingestion. Asbestos causes asbestos-related illnesses such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other cancers. Asbestosis is an illness characterized by the scarring of the lungs that reduces the lungs’ ability to function. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the membrane lining the chest or abdominal cavity specifically related to asbestos. Lung cancer and other cancers have been linked to asbestos exposure. Epidemiological studies (studies of people and diseases) document asbestos-related illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos in many occupations including mining, milling, manufacturing, insulating, shipbuilding, construction, and others. 

Cases of asbestos-related illnesses have also been documented in persons exposed to asbestos indirectly in non-occupational settings. Wives, husbands, and children of people who worked with asbestos have contracted asbestos-related illnesses after being exposed to asbestos dust brought home on the clothes of those people. 

Generally, a latency period of 10 to 30 years accompanies asbestos exposure before an asbestos-related illness develops. Developing an asbestos related illness is dependent on many factors including exposure dose, a person’s genetic make up, whether the affected person smokes or smoked, etcetera. According to research statistics, a smoker who is exposed to asbestos is over 50-90 times more likely to develop an asbestos-related illness than a non-smoker. The reason why smokers are so susceptible to asbestos is due to the loss of the lungs’ capability to protect and rid itself of fibers.  

What are some of the Asbestos regulations?

In Montana, activities involving asbestos in buildings are governed by one or more regulatory authorities, i.e. State of Montana DEQ, Federal EPA, and OSHA; in many cases jurisdictions and regulations overlap.

The Asbestos Control Program of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulates and permits asbestos abatement projects, accredits asbestos-related occupations, approves and audits asbestos training course providers, provides compliance assistance, and administers certain sections of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) regulation.  The Asbestos Control Program regulates asbestos abatement activities involving three (3) or more square or linear feet of regulated ACM.  Asbestos abatement activities must be permitted through the Asbestos Control Program and must be conducted by accredited asbestos personnel following proper asbestos inspection, abatement, transportation, and disposal procedures.  Generally speaking, the Asbestos Control Program regulates asbestos projects, building demolition, and building renovation activities that occur in facilities such as any institutional, commercial, public, industrial, or residential structure, installation, or building (including any structure, installation, or building excluding residential buildings having four or fewer dwelling units.

Most asbestos activity in Montana involves building renovation and demolition activities.  In order to determine which requirements apply to a building owner or contractor of a renovation or demolition, an asbestos inspection is required. An asbestos inspection not only locates, quantifies, and assesses the condition of asbestos, it also provides information as to whether an asbestos-containing material is regulated and regulated by which authority.  According to EPA and Asbestos Control Program regulations, an asbestos inspector accredited, or licensed, by the Asbestos Control Program must perform the asbestos inspection.   Typically, samples of suspect asbestos-containing materials are collected by the inspector for laboratory analysis.



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