Asbestos Awareness Information For University Employees
What is asbestos? Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber widely used in the construction and other industries. Most asbestos is immobilized in binding materials which do not release asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos may be present in a building without endangering the health of building occupants.
Some building materials contain asbestos which will release fibers if disturbed. This is known as friable asbestos, which is estimated to be present in about 700,000 commercial and public buildings in the U.S. A number of building materials within University buildings contain asbestos. Most of these materials will not release asbestos fibers unless they are damaged.
Exposure to asbestos fibers released into the air increases a person's risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease, such as a chronic lung ailment or cancer. The risk is related to such factors as the length of time a person is exposed, the amount of asbestos fiber in the air, and other considerations such as smoking tobacco.
To protect the health of workers in the state, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries has set maximum limits for the number of asbestos fibers in the air which workers may routinely breathe. Air monitoring is performed at the University to ensure that the air quality is safe.
What is the University doing? The University has procedures in place to properly inspect, maintain, and clean asbestos-containing materials to ensure the health and safety of students, staff, and visitors.
Facilities Management and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety have increased the level of staff training and have personnel certified to work with asbestos and to remove it safely.
If damage to an asbestos-containing material is noted, an inspection by certified staff will be made. If a possible fiber release has occurred, procedures to repair the damage, clean the area, and monitor the air quality will be implemented. Temporary evacuation of the affected area may be required to ensure continued safety.
The Environmental Health and Safety office is assessing buildings which contain asbestos. Projects relating to asbestos include removal or encapsulation as required by law. The on-going health and safety of students and staff are preeminent in scheduling asbestos-related work.
What can I do? Remember that asbestos-containing materials have been used in most building and homes constructed during the last 40 years, and release of asbestos fibers is a hazard that is preventable.
You can help protect the safety of the University environment by not tacking, nailing, screwing, drilling, or sawing any building materials and by being careful not to puncture wrapping around any pipe. NEVER VACUUM OR TRY TO CLEAN UP DAMAGED MATERIAL WHICH YOU SUSPECT MAY CONTAIN ASBESTOS.
Where do I report problems? Call your supervisor or call the Environmental Health and Safety office.