Frequently Asked Questions
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. It is mined and milled from rock and is thin and strong. Chrysotile (white asbestos), Amosite (brown asbestos), and Crocidolite (blue asbestos), are the most common types of asbestos used in manufacturing. Rarer forms are Tremolite, Anthophyllite, and Actinolite. When viewed under a microscope, Chrysotile fibers are pliable and cylindrical and are often arranged in bundles, whereas Amosite and Crocidolite fibers appear to look like tiny needles.
What is an ACP 5 form?
Form ACP 5 is needed to obtain building permits in New York City for renovation and demolition work. In New York City, before any renovation and/or demolition activity takes place, home owners are required to test building materials affected by such scope of work for the presence of Asbestos. A New York City Certified Asbestos Investigator performs Asbestos Investigation and issues a form ACP 5, only if no asbestos is found or if asbestos is found but proposed scope of work won't disturb it.
If asbestos is found in building materials that will be affected by proposed scope of work then Asbestos Abatement is necessary before any renovation or demolition can take place. In such scenario, home owner is required to hire an Asbestos Abatement Contractor and a Third Party Air Monitoring company to do Asbestos Abatement. Both companies must be separate and independent of each other. JLC provides Air Monitoring services.
NYC Dept. of Buildings won't issue building permits if building permit application is not accompanied by either an ACP 5 form or proof of Asbestos Abatement being completed.
What does “non-friable” mean?
Friable means that a material is able to be reduced to a powder by hand pressure. Asbestos containing materials (ACM) that are friable have a much greater tendency to release fibers into the air. Conversely, non-friable asbestos containing materials, because of their nature, do not easily release their fibers into the air. This class of material must be mechanically impacted (power tools such as sanders, drills, chippers, saws, etc.) to release fibers. ACM floors, mastics, and siding are classified as non-friable materials.
Can I decide how many samples an Asbestos Investigator should take while doing the inspection?
No. Number of samples for each type of building materials is governed by applicable laws. Here is a list to give you an idea:
How many products contain asbestos?
It has been estimated that 3,000 different types of commercial products contain asbestos. In homes built prior to 1978, asbestos is most commonly found as thermal insulation on boilers and pipes. Unfortunately, it can also be found in many other household materials, which include:
Blown-in attic insulation
Vinyl floor tiles - usually 9" X 9" tiles contain asbestos, but all tile should be tested to be sure
Glue that attaches floor tiles to concrete or wood (also called "mastic")
Some forms of linoleum
Window caulking or glazing
HVAC duct insulation (usually found in corrugated or flat paper form)
Fiber cement siding (usually 1/8” thick and 8’ X 4’, brittle)
Corrugated heavy duty panels
How can I find out if I have asbestos in my home or not?
It is recommended that you hire a professional asbestos inspector certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an inspection and take samples of any suspect asbestos-containing material. If you can’t afford to hire an inspector, you can contact an accredited laboratory to find out how much it would cost to analyze a sample and how they prefer it to be submitted.
What types of laboratory testing methods are available?
How might I be exposed to asbestos fibers?
Asbestos can enter the environment from natural mineral deposits which have been exposed to the weather, and fiber releases arising from the application, disturbance and removal of asbestos-containing materials (ACM). Asbestos may be found in products such as floor tiles, roof shingles, exterior siding, cement, automotive brakes, acoustical and structural insulation, etc. Asbestos fibers can be released into the air when ACM becomes damaged. If friable ACM (material that can be crumbled by hand pressure) is disturbed and becomes airborne, an inhalation hazard may result. Asbestos fibers in non-friable ACM (i.e. floor tiles, sidings, laboratory desktops, etc.) are so tightly bound in the material that they are in, that they do not easily release fibers. However, if the material is abraded, sanded or sawed, the material can easily be rendered friable.
I've heard that vermiculite might contain asbestos, is that true?
Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral which may contain asbestos. The uses of vermiculite vary. It has been used in potting soil for aeration purposes as well as in attics for insulation.
How do asbestos fibers enter the body?
Inhalation - Breathing air which has asbestos-containing fibers in it, is the primary route of damaging exposure. Some of the asbestos fibers reaching the lungs are eliminated in exhaled air and others are coughed from the lungs with mucous. The fibers reaching the deepest air passages of the lungs can produce the greatest damage.
Ingestion - The digestive system can be exposed to asbestos fibers from drinking water and mucous cleared from the lungs. A small number of fibers may penetrate the cells that line the digestive system, but only a few will reach the bloodstream. These fibers will be released in the urine.
Through the Skin - Asbestos fibers contacting the skin rarely pass through the skin into the body.
How can asbestos affect my health?
It is important to note that not everyone who is exposed to asbestos develops an asbestos-related disease. Available information on the health effects related to asbestos exposure primarily comes from long-term studies of people exposed to large quantities of asbestos in the workplace.
Asbestosis - Asbestos workers who breathe in asbestos fibers may develop a slow build-up of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis. This scarred tissue impairs the ability of the lungs and heart to adequately provide oxygen to the body. This is a serious disease and may take 20 to 30 years to develop after exposure. Asbestosis can eventually lead to disability or death in people exposed to high amounts of asbestos.
Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma - Asbestos workers also have an increased chance of developing two types of cancer: lung cancer and mesothelioma. Lung cancer starts within the respiratory tissues and mesothelial cancer grows from the thin membranes that surround the lung or the abdominal cavities. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma are usually fatal. These asbestos-related diseases do not appear immediately, but may develop 20 to 50 years after exposure.
Pleural Plaques - All types of asbestos can cause a variety of non-malignant pleural conditions as well. For reference, the pleura is the chest cavity or the place where the lungs sit. A thickening of the pleura can occur which can impair lung function. Pleural plaques (a gelatinous substance) can also occur, typically after about 15 years from being exposed to airborne asbestos fibers.
The health effects from oral asbestos exposures are unclear. In some areas where the residents are exposed to asbestos fibers in the drinking water, cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine may be a greater concern. After reviewing the scientific evidence from human experience and animal testing, however, health authorities are still unsure of asbestos links to cancer in the digestive system.
Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to asbestos fibers?
X-rays - The most common test used to determine if you have been exposed to asbestos is a chest x-ray. Asbestos disease usually occurs long after initial exposure (20-50 years). An X-ray cannot detect the asbestos fibers themselves, so it will not be helpful in determining if you were recently exposed to asbestos. However, if exposure occurred 20 or more years ago, it can detect early signs of lung disease caused by asbestos exposure.
Pulmonary Function Test - Another test which can be conducted by a physician is a pulmonary function test. This test is helpful in identifying lung capacity changes. Periodic health examinations by a physician, including a chest x-ray and review of asbestos-based risk factors, can be effective. Asbestos risk factors include levels, frequency, and length of asbestos exposures; period of time since exposures, and smoking history. The combined impact of cigarette smoking and fiber exposures can increase the chances of asbestos-related lung diseases substantially.
Does merely being exposed to asbestos guarantee health problems?
Health problems are usually related to the amount and length of time of exposure to asbestos. The more prolonged and intense the exposure, the greater the risk of a health problem.