Asbestos National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)

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Background on the Asbestos NESHAP

EPA's air toxics regulation for asbestos is intended to minimize the release of asbestos fibers during activities involving the handling of asbestos.

The air toxics provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) require EPA to develop and enforce regulations to protect the public from exposure to airborne contaminants that are known to be hazardous to human health. In accordance with Section 112 of the CAA, EPA establishes National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). The list of hazardous air pollutants (HAP), or “air toxics”, includes specific compounds that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects.

Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Asbestos was one of the first hazardous air pollutants regulated under the air toxics program. On March 31, 1971, EPA identified asbestos as a hazardous pollutant, and on April 6, 1973, EPA promulgated the Asbestos NESHAP, currently found in 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M. The Asbestos NESHAP has been amended several times, most comprehensively in November 1990. In 1995, the rule was amended to correct cross-reference citations to OSHA, DOT, and other EPA rules governing asbestos.

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Renovation and Demolition of Buildings

Air toxics regulations under the Clean Air Act specify work practices for asbestos to be followed during demolitions and renovations of all facilities, including, but not limited to, structures, installations, and buildings (excluding residential buildings that have four or fewer dwelling units). The regulations require a thorough inspection where the demolition or renovation operation will occur. The regulations require the owner or the operator of the renovation or demolition operation to notify the appropriate delegated entity (often a state agency) before any demolition, or before any renovations of buildings that contain a certain threshold amount of regulated asbestos-containing material. The rule requires work practice standards that control asbestos emissions. Work practices often involve removing all asbestos-containing materials, adequately wetting all regulated asbestos-containing materials, sealing the material in leak tight containers and disposing of the asbestos-containing waste material as expediently as practicable, as the regulation explains in greater detail.

These work practice standards are designed to minimize the release of asbestos fibers during building demolition or renovation, waste packaging, transportation and disposal.

When buildings are under renovation, they are not being demolished, but asbestos-containing building material is being removed or disturbed. Performing the work in accordance with the Asbestos NESHAP helps to ensure that areas in use during the renovation are not contaminated and that the area under renovation, when it is complete, is also free of contamination.

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Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Buildings

Any demolition or renovation operation at an institutional, commercial or industrial building is regulated by the Asbestos NESHAP. At a minimum, the thorough inspection requirement applies. The notification requirements apply to any demolition and to renovations over a certain threshold amount of regulated asbestos-containing material.

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Large-Scale Residential Demolition

In 1990, EPA amended the NESHAP for asbestos. In the revised rule, EPA noted that it does not consider residential structures that are demolished or renovated as part of a commercial or public project to be exempt from the NESHAP. For example, EPA explained that the demolition of one or more houses as part of an urban renewal project, a highway project, or a project to develop a shopping mall, industrial facility, or other private development would be subject to the NESHAP.

In 1995, EPA issued a Clarification of Intent (PDF) (2pp, 147k) regarding demolition of isolated single family homes.

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Exceptions to the Asbestos Removal Requirements

If the total amount of asbestos to be removed or disturbed is less than 260 linear feet, 160 square feet, or 35 cubic feet off of facility components (if the material could not be measured previously), then the Asbestos NESHAP does not require regulated asbestos-containing material to be removed before demolition or renovation activities occur.

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Asbestos Control Method

The Asbestos NESHAP requires specific work practices to control the release of asbestos fibers. To help ensure that the work practice standards of the Asbestos NESHAP are followed during a demolition or renovation operation, the asbestos NESHAP requires at least one onsite representative trained in the regulatory provisions and the means of compliance. This trained individual needs to receive refresher training every two years, including: applicability of the rule; notifications; material identification; control procedures for removal; adequate wetting; local exhaust ventilation; negative pressure enclosures; glove-bag procedures; High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters; waste disposal work practices; reporting and recordkeeping; and, asbestos hazards and worker protection.

EPA has not approved any alternatives to the demolition requirements of the Asbestos NESHAP. EPA has issued guidance on how to request approval for an alternative control method to the Asbestos NESHAP.

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Waste Disposal and Transportation

The rule generally requires that asbestos-containing waste material be sealed in a leak-tight container while wet, labeled, and disposed of properly in a landfill qualified to receive asbestos waste. Landfills have special requirements for handling and securing the asbestos containing waste to prevent releases of asbestos into the air. Transportation vehicles that move the waste from the point of generation to the asbestos landfill have special labeling requirements and waste shipment recordkeeping requirements.

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Milling, Manufacturing, and Fabrication

There are no operating asbestos mills in the US today, but the rule regulates the processing of raw asbestos materials and roadways to and from such areas. Most asbestos-containing materials have not been banned in the US; asbestos and its products are imported into the US every year to be made into roofing materials, building materials, automotive products and for use in certain industrial applications. The rule specifies requirements for manufacturing and fabricating operations that still use asbestos and these companies must comply with certain requirements when disposing of asbestos-containing waste.

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Applicability Determinations

Occasionally, EPA receives questions regarding how the rule applies to a specific activity. These queries are initially handled at the Regional level, but when an issue may have widespread or National application, such queries are elevated to the Headquarters Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), where they are handed on a national level. EPA collects these queries in the Applicability Determination Index (ADI) for reference by interested individuals and for use in future applicability determinations.

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Other Resources

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