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Asbestos Laws & Exposure Regulations Guide

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Even before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its first official warnings about the carcinogenic dangers of asbestos in the1970s, asbestos exposure has been linked with an array of fatal health problems including malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other types of dangerous diseases. As a result, state and federal asbestos laws have been set into place for handling such issues as buildings that still contain asbestos, employees who still work around asbestos, building managers and owners of buildings that contain asbestos, cleanup sites, restricting mining of asbestos, and more.

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, keep in mind that you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for victims to asbestos-related diseases. We invite you to fill out our form today for a free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information about top mesothelioma lawyers in your area, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file an asbestos trust fund claim, and much more. 

asbestos warning tape

NESHAP

The asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) was created by the EPA in order to decrease the amount of asbestos released into the air during activities that involve professional workers who handle materials containing asbestos.

After asbestos was determined  by the EPA to be a hazardous pollutant and extremely dangerous to health in 1971, NESHAP was created and amended on several different occasions until its latest version was released in 1995. In addition to asbestos, NESHAP also regulates six other hazardous air pollutants, including:

  • Mercury
  • Beryllium
  • Vinyl Chloride
  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Radon

In regards to asbestos, NESHAP laws apply to all buildings that were created using asbestos-containing materials, including schools, office buildings, apartments, department stores, auto repair shops, churches, hospitals, and more. The only exception to NESHAP regulations is residential homes and buildings with less than four dwellings. Otherwise, all housing complexes must abide by NESHAP and other state asbestos regulations. In addition, NESHAP rules apply to any industrial, institutional, or commercial buildings:

Schools

Prior to the 1970s, most schools in the United States were built using asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). A large number of these schools still exist today and as a result,  federal laws mandate that each of these buildings follow a series of required asbestos management plans:

  • The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA): AHERA requires all schools that were built using asbestos materials to inspect each building for asbestos materials and to come up with a proper management plan to prevent any asbestos hazards.
  • Any employee, contractor, or workers in school buildings built with asbestos materials must become accredited with The Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan.
  • If the renovation of a school results in stirring large deposits of friable asbestos fibers, the school must be demolished.
  • School districts must provide annual notifications to parents, employees, and others who are in the building for long periods that give updates on management plans and any actions that will be taken against asbestos.
  • There must a qualified and designated individual who ensures that notifications and management plans are implemented correctly.
  • Areas in the school buildings that contain asbestos must be periodically inspected.
  • Custodians and school janitors must be provided and complete asbestos-awareness training.
  • Both public and nonprofit schools must comply with all regulations and rules of NESHAP.

Laws For Building Managers and Owners

  • If any business owner or manager plans to renovate or demolish their building, they must first get it approved by their state’s agency.
  • Any worker hired to help renovate or demolish a building must be certified and accredited through a program such as the EPA Model Accreditation Plan (MAP).
  • Owners, managers, and anyone who works in building containing asbestos must take advantage of EPA’s Operation and Maintenance Program (O&M). O&M is a plan that provides training on cleaning, inspections, and work practices for those who are in building for longs periods that contain asbestos.
  • Under the Clean Air Act of 1970, NESHAP mandates that building managers and owners must follow a certain set of guidelines to control the asbestos in their buildings. These laws different from school laws as school laws have their own unique requirements.

Laws for Asbestos Professionals

In any instance that a site, building, school, home, or any other entity containing asbestos needs to be repaired, remodeled, or destroyed, a certified asbestos professional must be to the one to do the job. Asbestos professionals have the required knowledge and training in order to work around asbestos-laden materials. Workers, contractors, inspectors, planners, and designers must all undergo stringent asbestos training before working on sites that contain asbestos materials. Once they have completed training, there are several strict mandated laws that they must adhere to:

  • Anyone working around asbestos must always be allowed proper ventilation.
  • Anyone worker whose exposed to asbestos while renovating, repairing, or remodeling, must be allowed several breaks without being exposed for too long. The employer must also provide hygiene products and protective clothing to each worker.
  • Warning signs and instructions must always be visible around work areas containing asbestos.
  • Along with protective clothing, workers must have access to other protective equipment, such as respirators.
  • Medical examinations must be provided to all workers who are in contact with asbestos and asbestos-containing materials.
  • Showers with hot water and other post-asbestos exposure safety precautions must be provided.

All of the aforementioned laws are protected by OSHA regulations and must be fully adhered to.

Unfortunately, the majority of these laws were implemented years after millions of workers had already been exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. As a result, thousands of those workers have already been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, such as lung cancer, asbestosis or asbestos cancer. Thousands more are expected to be diagnosed in the future.

According to state and federal laws, if you’ve been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with a disease after working in a place that contained asbestos, the responsible party could be one or any of the following:

  • The business that manufactured the asbestos and/or the business that manufactured faulty protective gear and clothing.
  • The owners of the facility where the work was done, and the contractors or subcontractors involved.

In many instances, especially if a business or manufacturer has previous asbestos lawsuits, a trust fund may already be set in place for future cases. These types of lawsuits are almost always settled out of court before going to trial. An asbestos lawyer will be able to investigate and provide this information.

In the past, the most typical job sites and occupations that had an overabundance of asbestos materials were:

  • Shipbuilding and ship repairs
  • Asbestos distribution plants
  • Commercial businesses
  • Heating and Cooling repair professionals
  • Brake and clutch repair (automotive repair)
  • Paper mills
  • Breweries (built before 1980)
  • Pipefitting companies
  • Sawmills
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Airports and military airfields
  • Power plants
  • Oil and chemical plants
  • Steel plants
  • Mining companies
  • Roofing
  • Construction
  • Electrical repair jobs
  • Insulation installation or removal
  • Custodial jobs
  • Welding

For more information see our articles on Asbestos Abatement and Asbestos Disposal.

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