Industrial Hygiene FAQs
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral, composed mainly of silica, that occurs naturally in the environment. It is mined, processed and then used as an ingredient in the manufacture of many building components.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral. The fibers that are formed are microscopic in size, up to 300 times smaller than the diameter of human hair. These very small fibers, once released from a building material matrix, can become suspended in air for many hours or days. If inhaled these fibers can reach the alveoli sacks in your lungs. Once there they cannot be expelled. They become trapped in your lung tissues and your body will form scar tissue around them, or possibly produce cancer. The build up of scar tissue in your lungs is referred to as asbestosis. Your lungs cannot get enough oxygen to the blood when it has a lot of scar tissue in it. Also, if cancer cells form around these lodged fibers, then you have lung cancer which can spread and be deadly. A third asbestos illness, mesothelioma, is a rare type of cancer but is very deadly.
It is unlikely that a moderate exposure to asbestos fibers will cause one of these illnesses to develop. Asbestos is a natural mineral, and is therefore found in the ambient air we breathe. It has been estimated that the average person will breathe in around 26 million fibers in their lifetime. The problem is knowing at what time an asbestos illness will be triggered. This is referred to as a dose-response relationship. The more you are exposed, the more you become likely to have an issue. There is no magical number that determines if you will become sick. Most people who have come down with an asbestos illness in the past are those that have had multiple, extensive exposures, especially those working in mining, manufacturing, the construction industry and shipyards.
Asbestos is a mineral that is resistant to fire and corrosion, has excellent insulation properties, has a high tensile strength, is relatively cheap, and readily available in the past. It was often referred to as the "super mineral;" highly sought after in the construction industry, as well as the aeronautical and automotive industries.
Although it was known that asbestos fibers likely caused health problems in the early to mid-1900s, it wasn’t until the 1970s when the U.S. federal government decided to take some regulatory action. At first the standards only applied to K-12 schools. Now EPA, OSHA, CPSC, MSHA, DOT, and several other agencies have created standards and regulations in regard to the manufacture, use, handling, transportation and disposal; however, asbestos is not completely banned and can still be used in the manufacture of many building products today, especially those produced outside of the United States.
Environmental Health and Safety employs an Asbestos Program Manager in charge of the Management in Place policy for all campus facilities. Since asbestos building products kept in good condition do not pose any health hazard, and because there are so many asbestos-containing materials found in our buildings, our main goal is to leave them in place and ensure they are maintained in good condition. At the time an asbestos-containing building material needs to be removed, such as for a remodel project, then it is only done so by qualified abatement personnel, under strict removal, handling and disposal requirements. The EHS Asbestos Program Manager will oversee this work to ensure the safety of all occupants in the building. If you notice damaged building components that could contain asbestos, or if you are unsure if they could contain asbestos, please contact EHS at 208-885-6524.
It is not financially possible to remove it all as it is very widespread. Management in Place is the EPA recommended solution for managing asbestos-containing materials.
Medical surveillance is recommended for animal workers and may be required if you wear a respirator, as determined by EHS. It involves a doctor’s review of your medical records. If the doctor determines it is warranted, an appointment may be requested to gather more information. This may include a physical, blood tests, x-rays or other tests depending on your history and job-related exposure risks.
Departments are responsible for the costs associated with medical surveillance, not individuals.
None. Your records are kept by the doctor's office. Only the doctor's recommendation regarding your abilities and needs are provided to Environmental Health and Safety.
If there is visible mold in your work place please report this to Facilities at 208-885-6246 as soon as possible. Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety will work together to determine the appropriate course of action to remediate the problem.
Most, if not all, of the mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. It needs moisture to grow and becomes a problem where there is moisture damage, high humidity, or dampness. Controlling excess moisture is the key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth. Any areas that become wet due to water leaks, flooding, or other means should be promptly reported to Facilities at 208-885-6246 so they may control the source of moisture and begin efforts to dry out the area.
A respirator is a device used to protect a person from inhaling contaminants in the air, such as particulates, chemicals and gases. N-95s and other "dust masks" are considered respirators and you must consult with EHS prior to using them. Your supervisor must provide proper training, ensure you are medically capable of wearing one, and make certain the use itself does not create additional safety risks. See our "What is a respirator?" page for more detailed information.
Participation in this program is required if you are required to use a respirator as a part of your job duties/activities at the university. See our "Respirator Use Determination Flowchart" and contact us at 208-885-6524 for assistance in determining if you need to participate in the program. Additional information regarding university policies may be found in the APM Chapter 35.51.
The program involves three parts: medical surveillance (see above), training and fit-testing. Medical surveillance reviews, training and fit-testing must be done annually. For training, there is an initial in-person class with the respiratory protection program coordinator, and then annual refreshers are completed online.