What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral mined throughout the world, primarily in Canada, China, and parts of the United States and South America. It was known as the “miracle mineral” due to its durability, strength and ability to withstand heat. Asbestos can be broken into small, unseen fibers that remain airborne indefinitely and travel long distances. It has been used in over 3,000 commercial products such as: pipe and boiler insulation, sprayed-on acoustical and decorative textures, vinyl floor tile and linoleum, and cementitious, transite or slate siding and roofing, but is replaced in these products when possible.
You can still purchase products that contain asbestos such as vinyl asbestos floor tile and brake pads. Many materials that contain asbestos are being removed from existing buildings and are being replaced with materials that do not contain asbestos.
Is asbestos dangerous to my health?
There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. Inhalation of asbestos fibers causes the most significant health concern. Damaged asbestos-containing material is more likely to release fibers than asbestos material that is not damaged. If asbestos-containing material is dry and can be crumbled by hand pressure (friable) a fiber release is more likely than if the material is “nonfriable”. The more the asbestos material is disturbed; the more likely a fiber release will occur. When a release occurs, the small fibers may be inhaled and become deposited into the airways and lungs.
Due to the physical characteristics of asbestos, the fibers may remain in the respiratory system indefinitely. Each asbestos exposure increases your risk of developing an asbestos related disease.
Diseases from asbestos exposure may not appear for 10 - 20 years after exposure. Mesothelioma is a fatal form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It is a cancer of the membranes that line the chest and abdomen. Asbestosis is scarring of the lung tissue caused by asbestos fibers. This is a noncancerous, respiratory disease that is irreversible. Asbestos exposure may also cause lung cancer. Workers who smoke and are exposed to asbestos are 50 times more likely to develop lung cancer than the general public.
The risks associated with low level, non-occupational exposure have not been established and are almost impossible to validate.
Who regulates asbestos?
There are various regulations and agencies in charge of controlling asbestos. Funding to the NDEE has been reduced in recent years, and complaints are referred to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Health Division. For more information about their program, go to the Asbestos Control Program Website *
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS) in 1973 for the purposes of protecting the general public from asbestos exposure.
· The NESHAP regulations apply to renovations and demolitions of commercial, public, industrial, and institutional facilities; asbestos manufacturing; milling; roadways; and disposal.
· Residential buildings with fewer than four dwelling units are exempt from most of the NESHAP regulations.
· The regulations specify notification requirements, work practices and disposal requirements. For more information, see Demolition, Renovation and the Asbestos Regulations and the Demolition and Renovation Notification form.
· If you are conducting a fire training exercise on a building, you will have to comply with these regulations. For more information, see Policies and Guidelines for Fire Training Exercises and the Nebraska Fire Training Demolition Notification form.
· The federal regulations can be found in 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 63 NESHAP Subpart M §63.140.
· The NDEE has been delegated the authority to oversee compliance with the NESHAP regulations.
o The Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) is responsible for the NESHAP program in Lancaster County, and
o The Omaha Air Quality Control (OAQC) agency is responsible for the program within the Omaha city limits.
The EPA developed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which first authorized EPA to develop the Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986.
· The AHERA regulations set standards for inspections and management plans for asbestos in schools.
· The AHERA regulations necessitate training and accreditation for those who work with asbestos.
· The federal regulations can be found in 40 CFR Part 763 Subparts E-I §763.80.
· The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) oversees the AHERA program.
DHHS has developed regulations for the State of Nebraska found in Title 178, Chapter 22 – The Nebraska Asbestos Control Program.
· These regulations are in addition to the NESHAP and AHERA regulations.
· The regulations specify accreditation, licensure, work practices, notification, audits, inspections and fees for asbestos projects.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed regulations that protect asbestos workers.
· Employers must follow specific work practices and guidelines to insure minimal exposure for their employees in the asbestos industry.
· The federal government manages the OSHA asbestos regulations for Nebraska.
· The federal regulations can be found in 29 CFR Part 1926 – Safety and Health Regulations for Construction §1926.1.
Who can I contact to learn more about the asbestos regulations in Nebraska?
AHERA & Nebraska Asbestos Control Program (HHS)
· Omaha Office, Main Number (800) 356-4674
Air Asbestos Program Publications
Air Asbestos Publications, Forms and Applications
* This webpage contains links to Non-NDEE websites, these links will open in a new tab or window