Asbestos: a naturally occurring mineral found in certain rock formations, mined from open pit mines. Most of the asbestos used in the United States comes from Canada. Three kinds of asbestos are most commonly found in the US: Chrysotile, "white asbestos"; Amosite, "brown asbestos" and Crodifolite, "blue asbestos".
Asbestos was used in more than 3000 different products, ranging from pipe insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, brake pads, plasters, adhesives, paint, packing materials for valves, roofing materials, etc. Asbestos fibers were wonderful to use because they were durable, strong, flexible, and most importantly resistant to wear.
Concerns with Asbestos:
In the early 1960's evidence began to emerge showing that certain diseases were rampant among asbestos workers. These workers were ones that worked in mills, manufacturing facilities, painters and shipyards. These people were heavily exposed to airborne fibers. They were at high risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
The diseases most common are asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and digestive system cancers. Fibers may be inhaled or ingested. The fibers are small and can remain in the air for various hours. These fibers have no color or smell and therefore; are difficult to detect. Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition where the lungs become scarred, breathing becomes difficult and the disease may worsen even if the person stops working with asbestos. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer to the lining of the lung and/or abdominal cavities and is always fatal. None of the asbestos related diseases have early warning symptoms and are usually diagnosed years after the disease begins to develop.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates Asbestos. They brought to law a Clear Air Act to produce regulations to regulate air pollutants hazardous to health. These regulations are called the Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants. Asbestos is one of the air pollutants that is being regulated by the act. Asbestos in schools is also regulated by the EPA, but specifically by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). Under AHERA schools are required to inspect buildings for asbestos and develop a plan to manage asbestos. The department inspects Maryland's public and private schools.
Asbestos is regulated by states and by the federal government. The State of Maryland regulates how persons work with asbestos and also regulates those who train persons to work with asbestos. The EPA regulations cover four basic asbestos activities:
1) Removal, repair, or encapsulation of asbestos containing materials;
2) Approval of asbestos training;
3) Regulation of persons accredited to perform asbestos related activities;
4) Asbestos in schools.