This section discusses the presence of asbestos in houses, rental apartments, schools and other public buildings, and has a list of useful EPA contacts.
Does Your House Contain Asbestos?
It is very common for homes built or remodeled before the 1970's to have asbestos-containing materials in them. During the twentieth century, about 30 million tons of asbestos fiber were used in the
These websites describe where asbestos-containing materials might be found in and around an older house:
If you have purchased a home or are considering the purchase of one, the presence of asbestos is not necessarily a problem. The majority of individuals with asbestos-related diseases have been in the business of manufacturing, installing and/or removing asbestos products. Fortunately, most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos do not develop asbestos-related health problems. However, there is no known 'safe' level of exposure, therefore, all exposure to asbestos should be avoided.
Asbestos is a health hazard when it is friable - when it crumbles and releases particles into the air. If the asbestos-containing materials are intact (not friable) and in a location where they are unlikely to be disturbed by remodeling or renovation, removal is not always the best option. Other options include encapsulating (sealing) it or covering it.
If you suspect your house contains asbestos, we strongly recommend you use a trained and certified union technician to help you decide the appropriate action to take. The EPA recommends that you ask these asbestos professionals to document their completion of federal or state-approved training. Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved training. The EPA also recommends using separate firms for assessment and removal services, to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
Unless it is labeled, it is not always possible to determine if a product contains asbestos without laboratory analysis. Therefore, until a suspected product is tested, it is best to assume that it contains asbestos and not disturb it in any way. You can get names and contact information for accredited testing laboratories from The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).
Laboratory Accreditation Administration
The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)
Most states require homeowners to disclose known hazards before selling. If you are selling a home with asbestos containing materials, check with a local attorney or real estate agent to determine your obligation to disclose the presence of asbestos.
Does Your Apartment Contain Asbestos?
Asbestos-containing products were widely used in the construction of houses, apartments, offices and schools up to the 1970's. However, the presence of asbestos-containing products in your rental unit is not necessarily a hazardous condition. It is only when asbestos-containing products break down and become airborne (i.e. friable) that a hazardous condition is created.
In 1995, OSHA issued workplace standards for testing, maintenance and disclosure of asbestos. Rental property owners were considered to fall in the category of 'general industry' and therefore were covered by these OSHA regulations. Unless the property owner rules out the presence of asbestos through testing, it is presumed that asbestos is present.
When a landlord complies with OSHA regulations, performs testing, and discovers friable asbestos in a rental property, s/he is obligated to disclose this hidden and dangerous defect to the tenants. The presence of friable asbestos in rental property might be considered a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, and a tenant may be able to seek legal remedies.
If such a situation exists and you are unable to resolve the matter without legal recourse, we recommend that you contact your county or state bar association legal referral office. Please note that this, unfortunately, is not an area of litigation in which The Firm represents clients.
Asbestos in Schools
Asbestos-containing products were used extensively in the construction of schools and other public buildings, until the 1970's.
In 1986, Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to protect public and private school children and school employees from asbestos exposure. AHERA acknowledges that asbestos materials in schools that are intact generally do not pose a health risk, and includes provisions to monitor the condition of asbestos-containing materials, to manage the materials, and to keep open the lines of communication between all interested parties. The provisions of AHERA are relevant for schools in the
Provisions of AHERA
Each school must designate and train a person to oversee asbestos-related activities in the school. This person can be a consultant or a school employee.
All buildings must be inspected for the presence of asbestos-containing materials.
A management plan for controlling asbestos exposure must be developed, using accredited inspection personnel to implement the plan.
All records should be available for public review.
All teachers, parents and employees should be informed annually about the asbestos-related activities in the school.
In the past school districts have been fined for failing to meet provisions of AHERA. This is not, however, an area of litigation that this law office handles.