What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the generic term for a group of naturally occurring, fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, flexibility, and resistance to heat, chemicals, and electricity. Asbestos was a popular component in commercial products from the early 1900’s to the 1970’s and is found in building construction materials such as:
- sprayed-on fireproofing
- sprayed-on or textured ceiling material
- pipe and boiler insulation
- floor tiles and associated mastics
- cement pipe and sheeting
- roofing felts and shingles
- ceiling tiles
- drywall and joint compounds
- acoustical products
Unlike most minerals, asbestos breaks up into fine, light fibers invisible to the naked eye that can only be seen under a microscope. Intact and undisturbed asbestos-containing material (ACM) usually does not pose a health risk. It becomes a problem when asbestos fibers are released into the air due to damage, disturbance, or deterioration over time.
What are the dangers of asbestos exposure?
Asbestos fibers enter the body when a person inhales or ingests airborne particles that become embedded in the tissues of the respiratory or digestive systems. Exposure to asbestos can cause disabling or fatal diseases such as asbestosis, an emphysema-like condition; lung cancer; mesothelioma, a cancerous tumor that spreads rapidly in the cells of membranes covering the lungs and body organs; and gastrointestinal cancer. The symptoms of these diseases generally do not appear for 20 or more years after initial exposure.
The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and enforce regulations to protect the general public from exposure to airborne contaminants that are known to be hazardous to human health. In accordance with Section 112 of the CAA, EPA established National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) to protect the public. On March 31, 1971, EPA identified asbestos as a hazardous pollutant, and on April 6, 1973, EPA first promulgated the Asbestos NESHAP in 40 CFR Part 61.
The purpose of the asbestos NESHAP is to protect the public health by minimizing the release of asbestos when buildings containing asbestos are demolished or renovated. EPA delegates the responsibility of enforcing the asbestos NESHAP to state and local agencies. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Air Pollution Control, is responsible for enforcing these regulations for the state of Tennessee with the exception of Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Shelby counties. Demolition and asbestos renovation activities conducted in these counties are under the jurisdiction of a local air agency which is the point of contact for notification and permitting requirements.
The information contained herein is intended to inform contractors and building owners of the notification requirements for asbestos renovation activity and the demolition of buildings in addition to providing information for commonly asked questions regarding asbestos related topics. Comments or questions may be directed to the Tennessee Asbestos NESHAP program at (615) 532-0554.
Who Do I Contact Regarding Asbestos Accreditation Requirements?
Questions regarding the Asbestos Accreditation Requirements should be directed to the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management at 1-877-252-2694 or by visiting the asbestos accreditation requirements page.