Asbestos Awareness Program

Table of Contents:  

What is asbestos?
Uses of asbestos
Asbestos at Missouri S&T
When is asbestos dangerous?
Health effects of asbestos exposure
Procedure for dealing with asbestos-containing or suspect asbestos-containing materials

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It is distinguished from other minerals by the fact that its crystals form long, thin fibers. The different types of asbestos are:

  • Amosite
  • Chrysotile
  • Tremolite
  • Actinolite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Crocidolite

Uses of asbestos:

Asbestos has been used in literally thousands of products because of its unique properties:

  • Fire resistance
  • High tensile strength
  • Poor heat and electrical conductivity
  • Impervious to chemical
By knowing where asbestos is likely to be located and then taking measures not to disturb it, you will protect yourself and others from exposure to this hazardous substance.

Be aware of materials that could contain asbestos: 

  • Floor tiles
  • Vinyl sheet flooring
  • Mastic
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Roofing tiles
  • Putties, caulks and cements
  • Siding shingles
  • Wall and ceiling textures
  • Asbestos cement and pipe and sheet
  • Fire-resistant drywall
  • Pipe and boiler insulation
  • Sprayed-on building insulation
  • Automotive brake and clutch linings
  • Fire-resistant clothing
  • Laboratory counter tops
  • Laboratory ventilation hoods

At Missouri S&T, asbestos is most likely to be found in:

  • Sprayed on insulation in mechanical rooms, steel reinforcing beams, and some ceilings
  • Ceiling tiles in buildings built prior to 1981
  • Most 9" floor tiles in buildings built prior to 1981
  • A few 12" floor tiles in buildings built prior to 1981
  • Insulation around pipes and boilers, and
  • Interiors of fire doors
  • Older laboratory counter tops and ventilation hoods

When is Asbestos Dangerous?

The most common way for asbestos fibers to enter the body is through breathing. In fact, asbestos-containing material is not generally considered to be harmful unless it is releasing dust or fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested. 

Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable. The term "friable" means that the asbestos is easily crumbled by hand, releasing fibers into the air. Sprayed on asbestos insulation is highly friable. Asbestos floor tile is not.

Asbestos-containing ceiling tiles, floor tiles, undamaged laboratory cabinet tops, shingles, fire doors, siding shingles, etc. will not release asbestos fibers unless they are disturbed or damaged in some way. If an asbestos ceiling tile is drilled or broken, for example, it may release fibers into the air. If it is left alone and not disturbed, it will not.

Damage and deterioration will increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials. Water damage, continual vibration, aging, and physical impact such as drilling, grinding, buffing, cutting, sawing, or striking can break the materials down making fiber release more likely.

What are the health effects associated with asbestos exposure?

  • There are three primary diseases associated with asbestos exposure:
  1. Asbestosis
  2. Mesothelioma
  3. Lung Cancer
  • Typically, there is a long latency period for diseases associated with asbestos. (This means it may take many years for the disease to show up.) Following proper work practices and using appropriate personal protective equipment can prevent exposure to asbestos. 
  • Asbestosis- Asbestosis is a disease characteristic by fibrotic scarring of the lung. It is a restrictive lung disease, which reduces the overall volume of the lung. Asbestosis is prevalent among workers who have been exposed to large doses of asbestos fibers over a long period of time. The typical latency period for asbestosis is 10-20 years.
  • Mesothelioma- Mesothelioma is a cancer of the chest cavity lining (mesothelium). Mesothelioma can also occur in the lining of the abdominal cavity. This type of cancer spreads very rapidly and is always fatal. It is the disease associated with asbestos, which is of the greatest concern, however, it is also the rarest. Like other diseases associated with asbestos, it has a long latency period and may not develop for 20 to 40 years after initial exposure.
  • Lung Cancer- There are many causes for lung cancer. Asbestos exposure is only one of them. While employees exposed to large concentrations of asbestos fibers for many years have an increased risk of getting lung cancer, their risk is not as great as the cigarette smoker. A cigarette smoker who has worked with asbestos is more than 50 times more likely to contract lung cancer than the normal non-smoking population. The latency period associated with lung cancer from exposure to asbestos is typically 20 years.


  • Housekeepers and custodians should never sand or dry buff asbestos containing floor tiles, and only wet stripping methods may be used during stripping operations. Low abrasion pads should be used at speeds below 300 rpm.
  • Broken and fallen ceiling tiles should be left in place until identified. Only after they have been identified as safe may they be removed. Asbestos tiles will be removed by asbestos abatement workers.
  • Broken and damaged asbestos floor tiles must also be removed by asbestos abatement workers.


  • NEVER sand, grind, drill, hammer, cut, saw, break, damage, move or disturb asbestos-containing building materials or SUSPECT asbestos-containing building materials.
  • If you come in contact with a material you suspect to contain asbestos, NOTIFY YOUR SUPERVISOR!
  • Your supervisor will notify Environmental Health & Safety Services to have the material sampled for asbestos content.
  • If the material is determined to contain asbestos, it cannot be disturbed or removed unless it is done so by a Missouri licensed asbestos abatement contractor.
  • Never try to collect a sample of the suspect material yourself. Missouri State law requires all suspect materials be sampled by a State licensed asbestos inspector.
  • Before moving or disturbing any building materials, it will be necessary to ensure they do not contain asbestos. If they do contain asbestos, they will need to be removed by State licensed asbestos abatement workers before the work may be performed.