What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the generic term for a group of naturally occurring, fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, flexibility, and resistance to heat, chemicals, and electricity.
In the construction industry, asbestos is found in installed products such as sprayed-on fireproofing, pipe insulation, floor tiles, cement pipe and sheet, roofing felts and shingles, ceiling tiles, fire-resistant drywall, drywall joint compounds, and acoustical products. Because very few asbestos containing products are being installed today, most worker exposures occur during the removal of asbestos and the renovation and maintenance of buildings and structures containing asbestos.
What are the dangers of asbestos exposure?
Asbestos fibers enter the body when a person inhales or ingests airborne particles that become embedded in the tissues of the respiratory or digestive systems. Exposure to asbestos can cause disabling or fatal diseases such as asbestosis, an emphysema-like condition; lung cancer; mesothelioma, a cancerous tumor that spreads rapidly in the cells of membranes covering the lungs and body organs; and gastrointestinal cancer. The symptoms of these diseases generally do not appear for 20 or more years after initial exposure.
What construction activities does this booklet cover?
The asbestos standard for the construction industry (29 CFR Part 1926.1101, see www.osha.gov) regulates asbestos exposure for the following activities:
Demolishing or salvaging structures where asbestos is present.
Removing or encapsulating asbestos-containing material (ACM).
Constructing, altering, repairing, maintaining, or renovating asbestos-containing structures or substrates.
Installing asbestos-containing products.
Cleaning up asbestos spills/emergencies.
Transporting, disposing, storing, containing, and housekeeping involving asbestos or asbestos-containing products on a construction site.
Note: The standard does not apply to asbestos-containing asphalt roof coatings, cements, and mastics.