If you’re considering a renovation in the near future, take a few minutes to review these four most common myths about asbestos in buildings, along with the information you need to make smart decisions.
Myth One: If my building is less than five years old, it’s exempt from asbestos survey regulations.
This is by far the most commonly held myth regarding asbestos in buildings. The truth is that there are no exceptions to the federal law that mandates asbestos surveys. This is covered under the Clean Air Act, specifically under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). In brief, it says that an asbestos survey must be performed prior to any renovation or demolition activity, with no exceptions regarding the age or date of construction.
Myth Two: My municipality doesn’t require an asbestos survey, therefore I don’t have to do one.
It is true that many municipalities do not specifically require an asbestos survey. However, regardless of your municipality, the federal law still applies as above, under the NESHAP portion of the Clean Air Act. Some states, counties, and municipalities do enforce their own, more stringent, regulations as well. If your building is in an area regulated by additional rules, you must abide by them as well as by federal mandates.
Myth Three: My building was built after 1989, and therefore it won’t contain any asbestos.
In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule banning most asbestos-containing products. This fact gave rise to the idea that every building built since is therefore asbestos-free. However, that ban was overturned two years later, in 1991, by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, the only rules that currently apply are from two earlier EPA bans in 1973 and 1975, that prevent the use of spray-applied materials, “paper-type” products, pipe and block type insulations, and lastly, any “new uses” for asbestos. No matter when your building was built, there is a good chance it will contain some asbestos in other forms, and only an asbestos survey will tell you whether abatement is required prior to renovation or demolition.
Myth Four-and-a-Half: Our Asbestos Operations & Maintenance Plans Has Us Covered
While the first three myths are the most common, myths surrounding Asbestos Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Plans are perhaps the most varied. Some people believe an O&M plan is required by federal law (it’s not), and others think that having one ensures their building is safe from asbestos-related problems (it doesn’t).
The EPA does recommend that an O&M plan be put into place in buildings that may contain asbestos, but it does not require it. Some states require an O&M plan for certain building types, especially those that are open to the general public. However, in most cases where an O&M plan is required, it is because the lending institution has made it a part of the financing agreement.
Unfortunately, many owners think that because there’s an O&M plan in place, they don’t have to worry about asbestos beyond the terms of the plan. The truth is that most O&M plans include only a very limited asbestos survey and are far too general to be useful. Regardless, when planning renovations, a new asbestos survey will be necessary.
If you’re planning a renovation or demolition, start by contacting a reputable asbestos survey company with experience in your area. They’ll guide you through the regulations that apply to your specific building and get you started in the right direction. If you have questions, feel free to contact our asbestos experts right now for answers.