This document (originally distributed as a pamphlet) was prepared to assist Stony Brook University staff, faculty and students in understanding asbestos.
If, after you have read this document, you have any further questions, please contact Environmental Health and Safety.
Please click one of the following links for more information:
- What is asbestos?
- Why was asbestos used?
- How are asbestos-containing materials identified?
- What asbestos-containing materials are present at Stony Brook University?
- Is asbestos hazardous?
- What are the potential health effects from asbestos exposure?
- Are there asbestos regulations?
- What is Stony Brook University's asbestos management policy?
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the common name for several naturally occurring minerals, including Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, Actinolite, Anthophyllite, and Tremolite. Approximately 95% of the asbestos used in building construction is Chrysotile asbestos.
Amosite was used frequently on high-temperature thermal systems, such as boiler and pipe insulation. Crocidolite, Actinolite, Amthophyllite, and Tremolite asbestos were utilized to a much smaller degree in building construction.
Why was asbestos used?
At one time, asbestos was considered the miracle fiber because of its noncombustible, non-corrosive, high tensile strength and low electrical conductivity properties. In addition, because asbestos is naturally fibrous, it can be woven and mixed with other substances. Asbestos has been used in more than 3,000 types of products, frequently in combination with other materials, fillers, or binders. An asbestos-containing material (ACM) is defined by numerous agencies as any material containing more than one percent asbestos by weight. The majority of asbestos containing materials was installed in buildings between 1960 and the mid-1970s.
How are asbestos-containing materials identified?
In order to determine whether a material contains asbestos, bulk samples must be collected of the suspect material. Known materials such as fiberglass, rubber, and styrofoam do not require sampling. Bulk sampling procedures must be performed by a New York State Department of Labor-certified Asbestos Inspector. Environmental Health and Safety has several qualified inspectors on staff.
Laboratory analysis by polarized light microscopy (PLM) must be performed on the bulk samples. Certain non-friable materials (materials which are not easily pulverizable by hand-pressure) such as floor tiles and roofing materials may require further analysis by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). A suspect material should be assumed to contain asbestos until laboratory testing proves otherwise.
What asbestos-containing materials are present at Stony Brook University?
Based on a comprehensive asbestos survey performed by an environmental consulting firm and on numerous bulk samples collected by Environmental Health and Safety, several building materials in certain locations have been identified as asbestos-containing: sprayed-on fireproofing, thermal insulation such as pipe insulation/pipe fittings, roofing materials, interior panels on fume hoods, lab bench tops, floor tiles and associated floor tile mastic. A copy of the asbestos survey report is accessible at Environmental Health and Safety by appointment, as well as in the Melville Library.
Is asbestos hazardous?
Under certain circumstances asbestos exposure can be harmful. The hazard asbestos poses depends on two factors:
- whether the ACM is friable, easily crumbled by hand pressure, and
- whether the ACM is likely to be disturbed.
Some asbestos-containing products such as sprayed-on fireproofing are friable. When asbestos fibers are incorporated into initially non-friable products such as floor tiles, the material is less hazardous because it will not readily release fibers into the air. However, neither friable nor non-friable ACMs should be disturbed because of the potential for fiber release. As long as the ACM is in good condition, there is no significant health threat.
What are the potential health effects from asbestos exposure?
The most common route of entry for asbestos fibers into the body is through inhalation. Asbestos exposure may cause asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other illnesses. However, the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease depends on the concentration of fibers inhaled and the length of exposure. Historically, workers in asbestos mills whose exposures were of a long duration and high concentrations were at a greater risk than those in building trades. Likewise, workers who disturb asbestos face higher risks than office workers who occupy a building.
Asbestosis is a disease characterized by permanent scarring of the lung tissue and thickening of the lung wall. Lung cancer, a disease of the lung tissue, is marked by uncontrolled cell growth. Mesothelioma is a very rare and fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs (pleura) or the abdomen (peritoneum).
Are there asbestos regulations?
Federal and state laws exist to limit asbestos exposure and require employers to provide protection and training to workers who may disturb asbestos. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established a permissible exposure limit (PEL), which restricts the acceptable levels of asbestos in the air to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter of air (f/cc) averaged over an 8-hour workday. The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) requires the training of workers who handle asbestos, specifies work practices during asbestos abatement projects, and requires licensing of asbestos abatement contractors. The NYSDOL has established an air clearance concentration, less than 0.1 f/cc, after a small or large asbestos project has been completed.
What is Stony Brook University's asbestos management policy?
It is the goal of Stony Brook University to assure the health and safety of the students, staff and faculty. We want to maintain the ACM on campus in good condition and remove ACM when necessary. Environmental Health and Safety has certified asbestos supervisors and handlers on staff who are available to repair or remove damaged ACM throughout the campus, as well as certified asbestos air sampling technicians to perform air monitoring. When bulk and/or air sampling is performed, the cost of laboratory sampling is passed along to the requesting department.
Please contact Environmental Health and Safety if you should observe damaged ACM or if you feel asbestos has been disturbed in your work area.
In addition, respirator use is recommended for those whose work may inadvertently disturb ACM. Prior to being assigned a respirator, a worker must have a medical examination that assures the worker's ability to wear a respirator, receive training, and pass qualitative fit testing.
Respirator use training and qualitative fit testing is provided by Environmental Health and Safety.
For further information, see the Main Campus Asbestos Management Policy .