Environmental Health and Safety

Safety Programs > What is Asbestos?

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. 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 SUNY New Paltz?

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, some skim coats on walls, floor tiles and associated floor tile mastic. A copy of the asbestos survey report is accessible at Environmental Health and Safety by appointment.


Is asbestos hazardous?

Intact undisturbed asbestos does not pose a health hazard  Under certain circumstances asbestos exposure can be harmful. The hazard asbestos poses depends on two factors:

  1. whether the ACM is friable, easily crumbled by hand pressure, and
  2. whether the ACM is likely to be disturbed.

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. Some asbestos-containing products such as sprayed-on fireproofing are friable but as long as the ACM is in good condition and is undisturbed, 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.


How does  SUNY New Paltz's manage asbestos?

It is the goal of SUNY New Paltz 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. The necessity to remove the asbestos containing materials on campus  will be based upon the risk  assessment of its friability and likeliness to be disturbed.

Please contact Environmental Health and Safety  at 3310 if you should observe damaged ACM or if you feel asbestos has been disturbed in your work area.


Custodial Activities on Asbestos Containing Floor Materials

Sanding of asbestos-containing floor material or presumed asbestos-containing floor material is prohibited.

Stripping of finishes shall be conducted using low abrasion pads at speeds lower than 300 rpm and wet methods.

Burnishing or dry buffing may be performed only on asbestos-containing flooring which has sufficient finish so that the pad cannot contact the asbestos-containing material





Kyle Mungavin, Assistant Director
Service Building room 217