Illinois State University has found that some of the building materials on campus contain asbestos. Asbestos is considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be a hazardous material that can cause health problems. However, in order for asbestos to cause harm, it must be airborne and small enough to enter the lungs. As long as the building materials are in good shape, and are not disturbed in any manner, there is very little likelihood of any danger.
Assistance by the Campus Community
The most effective means of deterring any harmful effects are the actions taken by the people who work around the asbestos material. Faculty and staff can assist the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) in the following manner:
- Do not disturb the asbestos material in any manner, such as: putting plant hangers in the ceiling; removing floor tile; cutting, drilling, or hitting any material that does, or may, contain asbestos.
- Contact the OEHS if anyone is observed disturbing any asbestos containing material. Neither University personnel nor outside contractors are allowed to work on material containing asbestos unless it has been authorized by the OEHS and is performed in accordance with EPA/OSHA regulations.
- If there is any doubt about what materials contain asbestos, please contact the OEHS before disturbing.
- If any known or suspected material containing asbestos is found damaged, follow the procedures listed below:
- Leave the material alone. Do not allow anyone to disturb the damaged material, remove it, or clean it up.
- Leave the area, particularly if the material is or could become airborne. Close the area off if possible and post it as "off-limits."
- Contact the OEHS immediately.
The asbestos management policy at Illinois State University is to leave the material containing asbestos in place as long as the material is not damaged and does not interfere with the maintenance of the building or building equipment. This is the course of action recommended by the USEPA.
If the material containing asbestos must be removed from a building, the OEHS surveys and inspects the area to determine what must be done. Specifications are then written to abate the material. For small projects, the University has a trained and licensed abatement team that can do the work. For large projects, the work is bid out to trained and licensed abatement contractors. The abatement work is conducted in accordance with EPA, AHERA, NESHAPS, and OSHA regulations.
Asbestos, due to being so highly publicized, has generated a sense of fear in many people. However, asbestos is like most toxic materials; if you know what it is, what it can do, and how to handle it, there is a minimal hazard. The OEHS offers a training program that can assist departments or individuals with learning this important information.
At the present time, all building service workers and Facilities Services trade and craft personnel have received a two-hour awareness-training seminar on asbestos. If desired, this training or similar training can be given to departments. The OEHS also has some literature and videos on asbestos that can be used as training aids for departments. If any department or group of individuals wishes to receive any of this training, please contact the OEH