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Government study finds low exposure to workers.

On the job exposure to asbestos is not a significant risk for custodians, a recent health study concludes. The average exposure for all custodial workers was 100 times lower than the revised workplace standard proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Even in the highest exposure building, average exposures were 20 times lower than the current OSHA standard. Importantly, these new findings round out existing data on the exposure of the building workers and occupants to asbestos "highlighting the safety of managing asbestos in-place.

This new study now confirms that custodians also are not at significant risk from incidental and unintentional disruption of asbestos.

The study, "Exposure of Custodial Employees to Airborne Asbestos," was conducted for the United States Environmental Protection Agency by the Missouri Department of Health's Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology. Custodians were monitored at six sites (two courthouses, a college, a power station, a medical center and a city hall) while conducting routine work acivities around various types of asbestos-containing material (ACM). These activities included vacuuming, dust mopping, dry broom sweeping, hand dusting and stripping and buthng vinyl asbestos tile. Personal (breathing zone) air samples, as well as area samples, were collected and analyzed using transmission electron microscopy.

Of the 121 air samples analyzed, 99, or 81.8 percent, contained no asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers were found in six personal samples and 16 area sampies -- accounting for 18.2 percent of total samples. None of these samples exceeded the current OSHA action level of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter (f/cc). The personal sample with the highest measured concentration of asbestos was 0.0255 f/cc. The mean for all personal samples with-fibers longer than 5 microns was 0.0009 f/cc over an eight-hour TWA.

The study was biased toward routine custodial activities that had the potential to dislodge and resuspend asbestos fibers. The buildings also were selected with a bias toward those where damaged, friable (easily crumbled) ACM was present. The rationale for this bias was to focus attention on those routine custodial activities that directly involved ACM.

"Building owners have always suspected that asbestos risks to custodians -- like the risks to building occupants -- were overblown," said Safe Buildings Alliance President John Welch. "Asbestos consultants and removal contractoff won't like this study because it pokes yet another hole in their argument for removal and supports the growing public sentiment that, for all the millions of dollars that have been spent removing asbestos, there has been little return in terms of improved health or safety."
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Title Annotation:Missouri Department of Health's Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology conducts health study for EPA entitled, 'Exposure of Custodial Employees to Airborne Asbestos'
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 16, 1993
Words:421
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