Asbestos and Air Quality
Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals mined for properties such as thermal insulation, chemical and thermal stability, and high tensile strength. In the past, various types of asbestos fibers were added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.
Health Impacts of Exposure
Most people are exposed to small amounts of asbestos in their daily lives and do not develop health problems. When disturbed, however, asbestos can become an air toxic, releasing fibers which can be inhaled or ingested. Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. Asbestos fibers can remain in the lungs for a long time, increasing the risk of disease.
Studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards have shown that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of the following:
- Lung cancer
- Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity
- Asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue
Researchers have not yet determined a safe level of exposure but know that the greater and longer the exposure, the greater risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease. Risks of lung cancer and mesothelioma increase with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater for smokers. People who develop asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.
Regulation of Abatement and Disposal
EPA regulates the abatement and disposal of asbestos-containing materials from any public or private building involving demolition, renovation, repair, construction, and maintenance activities.
EPA certifies and licenses asbestos-removal contractors, inspects asbestos-abatement projects, and enforces laws regarding the proper removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. The agency also educates homeowners about the dangers of exposure to asbestos and how to deal with asbestos in the home.
DEQ regulates the abatement and disposal of asbestos-containing materials from large industrial sources subject to the Tier I air quality operating permit program.
Asbestos Renovation/Demolition Notifications
Asbestos renovation/demolition notifications for activities taking place at Tier I (major) facilities in Idaho should be sent to the DEQ Asbestos Compliance Analyst identified at right. There are no fees associated with the notifications.
Notifications for asbestos abatement activities at all non-Tier 1 facilities should be sent to the EPA Asbestos NESHAP Coordinator (also identified at right).
Idaho Asbestos Certification and Licensure
Idaho does not operate a state asbestos certification program; therefore, current asbestos certification obtained from any other state asbestos program which meets EPA’s certification and licensure standards is acceptable for conducting asbestos activities in Idaho.