Asbestos in California: in the Home and Workplace

Is theres asbestos-containing material in your home or workplace

This fact sheet provides information to people who are trying to determine whether there is asbestos-containing material in their home or workplace, and what they might do if there is. It reviews health concerns about asbestos exposures, plus options and resources to address these concerns.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber . It is mined just like any other mineral. The fibers are heat resistant, resistant to chemical attack, have excellent tensile strength and have high electrical resistance. These properties make asbestos a useful material for electrical and thermal insulation. It was often added to building materials for this reason. There are several types of asbestos; the most common are chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.

Asbestos and Indoor Air

The main source of asbestos in indoor air is insulation products. Buildings built in the last 50 years used a variety of materials composed of asbestos mixed with other fibers like paper, fiberglass, or synthetic fibers and a binder, usually lime or gypsum mortar. The most commonly reported material in California homes is the cottage-cheese ceiling insulation. Other common materials include vinyl floor tiles, patching compounds and textured paints, furnace, stove and pipe insulation, stove door gaskets, some roofing shingles and siding material, and parts of some pre-1979 appliances (e.g. toasters, clothes dryers, hair dryers).


ASBESTOS & HEALTH

How dangerous is asbestos to my health?

You will not be harmed by touching it or being near asbestos-containing materials. Your health may be affected by inhaling asbestos fibers, where the fibers may become lodged in the microscopic tubules of your lower lung. Symptoms of lung problems do not usually appear until 20-30 years of exposure to high levels of asbestos fibers. Most people do not develop health problems when exposed to small amounts of asbestos. However, the risk of lung disease from asbestos exposure is greater among smokers Many studies have shown that the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure is particularly hazardous. A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine (May 28, 1998) reports that, "exposure to moderate levels of asbestos does not appear to significantly increase a person's risk of developing lung cancer." However, this is an area of continued debate among scientists.


WHAT CAN I DO?

How can I find out if I have asbestos in my home?

It is not possible to identify asbestos just by looking at it. It can only be identified by a person trained in fiber identification with a special polarized light microscope. There are certified labs throughout California that can identify asbestos in building materials (see attached list). Contact a lab to find out how the sample should be collected and sent for testing. It's not an expensive test and should cost about $35 per sample.

What should I do if there is asbestos in my home?

If you have an asbestos-containing material in your home, your choices are to remove it, contain it, or live with it.

The best thing to do, if the asbestos-containing material is in good condition, is to leave it alone. The only way that it can affect your health is when the material is damaged and fibers become airborne. If it is moderately damaged, it is recommended that you manage it in place (repair the damage and contain it, possibly with a coat of paint or sealer). Removing and disposing of any asbestos-containing material is expensive and also increases the likelihood of fiber release.

If you feel that you cannot live with it, then you need to hire a certified professional for its safe removal and for testing the air after its removal. You can get help with these matters by calling the CalOSHA Asbestos Consultants Unit or U.S. EPA Asbestos Ombudsman (see Hotline phone list). They can guide you through the process. You should also contact your local health or air quality department to find out local regulations.

Who handles asbestos issues in California?

In California, asbestos wastes are regulated by local, state and federal agencies. Information on regulations, certification, and health and safety is available from the following State agencies:


ASBESTOS AND THE WORKPLACE

Health hazards from asbestos dust have been recognized in workers exposed in shipbuilding trades, asbestos mining and milling, manufacturing of asbestos textiles and other asbestos products, insulation work in the construction and building trades, brake repair, and a variety of other trades. Demolition workers, drywall removers, and firefighters also may be exposed to asbestos dust. Generally, workers who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness until many years after first exposure. For example, the time between first exposure to asbestos and the appearance of lung caner is generally 15 years or more; a delay of 30 to 35 years is not unusual.

Individuals who know or suspect they have been chronically exposed to asbestos dust on the job or at home should inform their physician of their exposure history. A physical examination is recommended if any of the following symptoms develop:

Free Software for Building Professionals

The Asbestos Advisor is an interactive compliance assistance tool that provides guidance to building owners, managers and lessees, as well as contractors of building renovations, maintenance, and housekeeping services on how asbestos standards may apply to those buildings and that work. It is available OSHA web page, spider.osha.gov/oshasoft/asbestos/ . Select Asbestos Advisor for your operating system. When the software is run, the user is asked a series of questions regarding the buildings and employees in question. A final report is created which describes all OSHA-related responses.


Useful Phone Numbers


OTHER RESOURCES

Literature

The following EPA documents can be obtained from their IAQ INFOLINE. at 800-438-4318 (refer to EPA document No.):

Useful Web Sites

Up-to-Date Lists of Accredited Laboratories for Asbestos Testing:

Laboratories in California Accredited for Analysis of Asbestos in Bulk Building Materials

(Polarized Light Microscopy Test Method)

The following laboratories are currently accredited by the National Institute of Standards and Technology Asbestos Program. Source: U.S. Department of Commerce (refer to web site on previous page).

LABORATORY

LOCATION

PHONE 

ASBESTECH

Carmichael, CA 

916-481-8902

Analytical Labs San Francisco, Inc. 

San Francisco, CA 

415-552-4595

Asbestos TEM Laboratories, Inc.

Berkeley, CA 

510-528-0108

Bay Area Air Quality Management District

San Francisco, CA 

415-749-4629

CAMCO Laboratory

Fontana, CA 

909-428-3099

CT&E Environmental Services Inc.

San Diego, CA 

619-222-0544

CTL Environmental Services 

Carson , CA 

310-530-5006

Concord Analysis, Inc.

Chatsworth, CA 

818-407-0128

Design for Health, Inc. 

San Diego, CA 

619-291-1777

EMG Company 

Garden Grove, CA 

714-530-0779

EMS Laboratories. Inc. 

Pasadena, CA 

818-568-4065

EMSL Analytical, Inc. 

South Pasadena, CA 

213-254-9960

EMSL Analytical Inc. 

San Mateo, CA 

415-570-5401

ENCORP 

El Segundo, CA 

310-640-9811

Forensic Analytical Specialties, Inc. 

Hayward, CA 

510-887-8828

Forensic Analytical Specialties, Inc.

Rancho Domingues, CA 

310-763-2374

Health Science Associates

Los Alamitos, CA 

714-220-3922

Hi-Tech Environmental &Lab Services 

Cypress, CA 

714-827-0693

Hygeia Laboratories, Inc.

Sierra Madre, CA 

626-355-4711

Kellco Services, Inc.

Fremont, CA 

510-659-9751

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power 

Los Angeles, CA 

213-367-7271

Los Angeles Harbor Department Testing Lab

Wilmington, CA 

310-732-3976

Los Angeles Unified School District 

Los Angeles, CA 

213-743-5086

MACS Lab., Inc.

Santa Clara, CA 

408-727-9727

Micro Analytical Laboratories, Inc.

Emeryville, CA 

510-653-0824

Micro Analytical Laboratories, Inc. 

San Francisco, CA 

510-653-0824

Micron Environmental Labs 

Duarte, CA 

626-357-8627

NATEC International, Inc.

Garden Grove, CA 

714-894-7577

National Analytical Laboratories, Inc. 

Roseville, CA 

916-786-7555

National Econ Corporation

Irvine, CA 

714-752-5866

PSI

Brea, CA 

714-671-1072

Precision Micro-Analysis, Inc.

Sacramento, CA 

916-456-4892

RJ Lee Group, Inc. 

San Leandro, CA 

510-567-0480

San Diego Dept. of Environmental Health 

San Diego, CA 

619-694-2232

San Joaquin Environmental, Inc. 

Fresno, CA 

209-298-8500

South Coast Air Quality Management District 

Diamond Bar, CA 

909-396-2172

Western Analytical Laboratory

Burbank, CA 

818-845-7742

 

This list was last updated May 4, 1998 and may now be dated. For a current national list, click here!

Based on the California Department of Health Services Info Sheet

This page was updated on 30-Mar-2016