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Standard Practice for Asbestos Surveys Will Address Wide Range of User Needs; User Participation Sought

A draft Standard Practice for Asbestos Surveys of Buildings is being developed by a task group of ASTM Subcommittee E50.02 on Commercial Real Estate Transactions within Committee E50 on Environmental Assessment, to provide uniformity to surveys performed and a template for users.

The inhalation of asbestos fibers is known to cause serious health problems, but no national standard exists for asbestos surveys according to the ASTM task group chair, F. Stephen Masek, a certified asbestos consultant and president, Masek Consulting Services, Inc., Mission Viejo, Calif.

Concerned with this health hazard, the task group has prepared an exhaustive 16-page draft standard of precise procedures that includes a handy reference of over 40 building materials suspected to contain asbestos and their estimated usage dates.

“It will greatly reduce variability in the quality and content of asbestos surveys and will educate both users, providers, and secondary users such as general contractors and regulators,” stated Masek, “as to the types of materials which may contain asbestos, the dates those materials were used, and the components necessary for an adequate asbestos survey. It will supply a long-needed standard for the appropriate numbers of samples for non-friable materials.

“There is still, after all of these years, a widespread lack of knowledge in the real estate and general contracting industries (including city building officials),” he noted, “regarding which materials may contain asbestos and the dates when asbestos was used. AHERA, an old U.S. EPA regulation regarding asbestos in schools, allows the exterior of buildings to be ignored, does not specify appropriate numbers of samples for non-friable materials, requires a generally impractical random-number based sampling scheme, and provides no guidance on what materials may contain asbestos.”

Participation from “user” organizations is key to balance the task group at this time. Lenders, property management firms, commercial property owners (apartments, shopping centers, hospitals, nursing homes, office complexes, airports, hotels, etc.), attorneys, government agencies, and general contractors are highly encouraged to become involved by contacting Masek (see information that follows).

Asbestos surveys are performed by asbestos consultants who must have knowledge of building design, materials, and construction and are licensed according to various state requirements. Masek said, these surveys include the:

• Review of relevant documentation (e.g. plans, specifications, previous reports, and reports on asbestos removal work);
• Visual observation of the accessible locations in a building;
• Adequate sampling of suspect materials therein;
• Submission of the samples to a qualified laboratory for analysis of asbestos content; and
• Preparation of a report for the purpose of determining the presence and condition of asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

Various limitations on the scope of the survey may apply.

“They are used to identify asbestos-containing materials which present an immediate hazard,” he continued, “to identify ACMs which may be managed in-place, to determine which materials need to be removed by properly licensed contractors as part of renovation and/ or demolition work, and to determine the cost of removal and/or replacement of the ACMs.

“By providing a national standard for asbestos surveys, it will allow users to simply specify that they want an asbestos survey conforming to the ASTM standard (and to any specific limitations they may need),” concluded Masek. “It will educate both users, providers, and secondary users such as general contractors and regulators as to the types of materials which may contain asbestos, the dates those materials were used, and the components necessary for an adequate asbestos survey. It will educate users on the impact of limitations and protect providers from the effects of both general and specific limitations.”

For further technical information, contact F. Stephen Masek, President, Masek Consulting Services, Inc., Mission Viejo, Calif. (phone: 949/581-8503). Committee E50 meets April 2-6 in Phoenix, Ariz. To find out more about joining Committee E50 and E50.02 on Commercial Real Estate Transactions, contact Staff Manager Dan Smith, ASTM (phone: 610/832-9727). //

Copyright 2001, ASTM

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