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Asbestos Factsheet


Asbestos is the common name for a group of naturally-occurring silicate minerals that separate into thin but strong fibers. There are six asbestos minerals which have been used commercially - chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite. Asbestos is not combustible, has high tensile strength, has good thermal and electrical insulating properties, is moderately resistant to chemicals, and has good frictional properties. It is durable, flexible, strong and resistant to wear. Thus, asbestos has been used for thousands of commercial and public applications including:

  • Roofing and Flooring Products,
  • Textiles,
  • Fireproofing,
  • Friction Products (e.g., brake linings),
  • Reinforcing cement, pipes and other materials,
  • Thermal insulation, and
  • Acoustical insulation
While asbestos has proven useful through the years, it has been suspected of presenting environmental and health hazards. Asbestos can not be easily destroyed or degraded.
Concerns It is not known what amounts of asbestos are hazardous over what periods of time. Asbestos fibers may enter the body through inhalation (breathing) or ingestion (eating, drinking).
Diseases which have been attributed to asbestos exposure include such diseases as asbestosis, mesothelioma and gastrointestinal cancers. Asbestos also may have a co-cancer-causing effect with tobacco smoking.
Asbestos workers (i.e., working 40 hours/week - 48 weeks/year) who are smokers, and who are not properly protected, have increased risk of developing lung cancers compared to non-exposed nonsmokers. Asbestosis has been associated with exposure to high levels of asbestos. The relationship between exposure to low levels of asbestos development of a cancer is uncertain. Therefore, it is important that exposures to asbestos be kept as low as possible.
Both UMD safety personnel and State of Maryland contract workers have surveyed and evaluated many types of materials in most campus facilities. Since 1979, UMD and the State of Maryland have allocated several million dollars for the removal of asbestos materials which had the greatest exposure potential.
UMD currently has in effect an Asbestos Management Plan which provides for restricted access to potentially hazardous locations and the systematic inspection/repair of damaged asbestos-containing materials. Only trained and protected personnel are allowed to work with asbestos materials. All other personnel should report any suspected asbestos problems to the Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk and should Not Disturb It. This plan is continuously being improved to meet changing regulations and recommended safe practices.
Not all types of building materials have been assessed at this time for the presence of asbestos. Floor tiles, floor tile mastics, plasters, roofing asphalts, drywall and other miscellaneous materials must be presumed as asbestos-containing unless proven otherwise.
UMD is resurveying, as needed, to identify these materials and their locations. Available asbestos inventories and related information have been placed on the internet or campus access.

For further information, contact the Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk (301) 405-3960.

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