Introduction to Asbestos and Asbestos Surveys

It is common knowledge that long-term exposure to asbestos is extremely harmful to the publics health and well-being. Since the 1980s, most countries have taken measures to try and control the publics exposure to asbestos by banning its use in common construction materials such as building insulation and fire doors.

What is not common knowledge is that asbestos in its natural geological state as a serpentine, or layered, mineral is not dangerous, and cannot be seen even with a microscope because it is significantly smaller than a human hair! It is when the materials that contain asbestos are disturbed and become airborne that exposure can cause health impacts many years after the initial exposure.

There are two types of asbestos-containing materials (ACM): Friable and Non-friable. If a material consists of more than one percent asbestos and is easily hand crumbled, it is a Friable ACM. If the material containing more than one percent asbestos cannot be easily hand crumbled, then it is a Non-friable ACM. An example of a Friable ACM is the thermal insulation that is frequently found on pipes, and a Non-Friable ACM is acoustic ceiling tiles. Exposure to Non-friable ACMs is not considered dangerous as the asbestos fibers are not likely to become airborne.

Only 16 of the 58 counties in California do not have naturally occurring asbestos (NOA). Therefore, it is very likely that construction involving excavation, demolition or renovation will require an asbestos survey to ensure that the disturbance of materials that potentially contain asbestos is minimized or prevented.

An asbestos survey for a building demolition has more stringent requirements than a building renovation, because more disruption of the asbestos occurs. There must be a site inspection and survey that includes all the materials used in construction for the building foundation, underground utilities, and in areas that are not readily visible. A formal Asbestos Survey Report is then completed that details all the discoveries and conclusions. For a building renovation, only those materials that would potentially be disturbed would require a survey.

Asbestos Surveys may only be completed by individuals who are Certified Asbestos Consultants (CAC) and registered with Cal/OSHA. The CAC must also be a party with no vested interest in the demolition or renovation project. There are numerous items that must be documented on the Asbestos Survey, including but not limited to:

  • Who requested the survey and date the survey was requested.
  • The CAC performing the survey, proof of OSHA certification and employing company.
  • Indication of all types of asbestos-containing materials, whether known or assumed.
  • Identification of where the samples were taken, along with a sketch of how the sample will be handled as it passes through the asbestos survey process.
  • Proof the laboratory receiving the samples taken from the site is an accredited facility by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP).
  • An explanation, presented as a table, of all results for Friable and Non-friable asbestos-containing materials.

With all the requirements of an asbestos survey, it makes sense to utilize a firm such as Essel Environmental Consulting.  Doesn’t it?

Asbestos Surveys for San Francisco Oakland San Jose
Bay Area & Northern California