Federal Regulations of Asbestos

The life-threatening health effects of asbestos exposure are now scientifically proven and irrefutable. In the interest of public health, government agencies have regulated the use, removal, and clean-up of asbestos-containing materials, sites, and natural deposits. The general public may ask what exactly these regulations cover, how they are enforced, and what other hazards exist in our environment. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS) are the standards for environmental pollutants in the United States.

NESHAPS were indoctrinated through the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Under the jurisdiction of the EPA, these amendments were intended to significantly increase government power to regulate public air pollutants. There are 187 hazardous pollutants named in the Clean Air Act, though asbestos is regulated under a special category of 7 particularly hazardous substances. These include beryllium, mercury, vinyl chloride, benzene, arsenic, and radon.

Lung cancer attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge the public to become aware of these federal standards. Mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis are three of the most serious illnesses associated with asbestos exposure – and no amount of inhalation is safe in the human body. These standards have been created for public safety, and our awareness of them will further enforce strict adherence to them.

The National Emission Standard for asbestos regulates roadways, demolition and renovation, waste disposal, asbestos mills, spraying, insulating, and fabricating. These standards require application of technology based emissions standards referred to as Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT). Consequently, these post-1990 NESHAPs are also referred to as MACT standards. The NESHAPs are delegated to the states but both EPA and the states implement and enforce these standards.

  • EPA conducts inspections of facilities subject to the regulations to determine compliance. EPA inspections include:
  • Reviewing reports and records
  • Interviewing facility personnel knowledgeable of the facility
  • Inspecting the processes that have emissions points subject to the standard sampling waste-water discharges, if applicable
  • Inspecting against design and work practice standards
  • Reviewing leak detection and repair methods

Sources subject to NESHAPs are required to perform an initial performance test to demonstrate compliance. To demonstrate continuous compliance, sources are generally required to monitor control device operating parameters which are established during the initial performance test. Sources may also be required to install and operate continuous emission monitors to demonstrate compliance. NESHAP sources that meet the Clean Air Act definition of “major source” generally receive a full compliance evaluation by the state or regional office at least once every two years.

EPA, state and local air program inspectors inspect renovation and demolition sites to determine compliance with Asbestos NESHAP standards. This program focuses on renovation and demolition activities and waste disposal sites. It applies to asbestos generation during mining, manufacturing/fabricating, renovation and demolition and waste disposal.

The Asbestos NESHAP does not place specific numerical emission limitations for asbestos fibers on demolitions and removals, rather, it requires specific actions be taken to control emissions. However, it does specify zero visible emissions to the outside air from activity relating to the transport and disposal of asbestos waste.

Single family private residences are not regulated by the Asbestos NESHAP. The regulation defines a ‘facility’ to be any institutional, commercial, public, industrial or residential structure, installation or building; any ship or waste disposal site. Furthermore, any facility that was previously subject to the Asbestos NESHAP is not excluded, regardless of its current use or function.

Demolition of facilities in which no asbestos is present is still required to submit a notification. Written warnings are issued to owners of operators who violate notification requirements. Or, depending upon the offense, EPA recommends fines up to $25,000 per day per violation. EPA may also bring criminal charges against violators. Some owners and operators who have knowingly violated the Asbestos NESHAP have been sentenced to prison terms.

NARS stands for “National Asbestos Registry System.” NARS is a computerized database established by EPA in April, 1989. NARS stores data on the compliance history of firms doing demolition or renovation work subject to the Asbestos NESHAP. If you suspect any violation of these standards or have developed an asbestos-related illness from exposure, contact an asbestos attorney today for a free consultation.

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