Washington State University
Environmental Health and Safety Asbestos

Asbestos

Although not common in recent times, for many years asbestos was a frequent additive to building material because of its low cost, strength, thermal insulating qualities, chemical and electrical resistance. Asbestos fibers are inhaled through the bronchial tubes to the bronchioles of the lung and may become embedded in the alveoli. Exposure to elevated levels of these microscopic fibers has been linked to lung cancer and other serious health problems, such as asbestosis (excessive scar tissue on the lungs that restricts breathing) and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the chest cavity). The likelihood of getting asbestos-related illness increase with the level and duration of exposure.

What you need to know

EH&S has the overall responsiblity to ensure WSU units comply with established safety regulations that govern the disturbance of asbestos.  Individual employees, supervisors and managers of each organizational unit all play a vital role in asbestos safety by understanding and adhering to asbestos policies and procedures developed by EH&S.  Such policies are found in the university Safety Policies and Procedures Manual 5.22 – Asbestos Safety.  Additionally, the WSU Asbestos Management Plan was developed by EH&S to establish protocols and procedures specifically for service departments that maintain campus buildings.  Such units under the plan include:

  • WSU Pullman Facilities Services – Operations and Capital
  • Facilities teams at CAHNRS Research and Extension Centers in Prosser, Mount Vernon, Puyallup and Wenatchee
  • Housing and Dining

Asbestos management practices at branch campuses in Spokane, Tri-cities and Vancouver are developed by each respective campus’ EH&S office.

What is asbestos?

Visit the Asbestos Information Page for an overview of asbestos facts, known uses and health risks.

Where is it found at WSU?

Most academic buildings on WSU’s Pullman campus have comprehensive asbestos survey information available to the WSU community. Survey reports are found on the WSU Asbestos Database maintained by EH&S.

In the absence of survey information, asbestos is assumed to be in any building material that is not wood, metal, glass or structural concrete.  Common suspect asbestos materials include floor tiles, sheet vinyl flooring, wallboard, plaster, ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, textured walls and ceilings and laboratory fume hood lining, to name a few.

Policies and regulations

SPPM 5.22 – Asbestos Safety

BPPM

Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-62-077 and 296-65

Training

 

Avoiding Exposure

Intact asbestos materials do not pose a health threat. But, if the material becomes damaged, deteriorated or disturbed, asbestos fibers can be released into the air and inhaled.  Use the following measures to protect you and fellow Cougars from exposure to airborne asbestos fibers.

  • Be aware that asbestos is present in many buildings on campus.  All employees are required to complete online asbestos awareness training once upon hire.
  • Reference WSU’s Asbestos Database for materials that contain asbestos in your building.
  • Immediately report damaged suspect asbestos building materials to Facilities Services at 5-9000.  Alternatively, myFacilites work requests should be submitted for ongoing maintenance issues that have the potential to damage asbestos.
  • Do not try to repair or renovate University building space yourself.  Reference BPPM and Deans letter for established procedures.
  • Do not install equipment yourself that requires connection to University facilities or access above the ceiling, inside walls, in attics or crawlspaces.
  • Do not fasten items to walls with screws, pins, nails or hangars.
  • Be careful not to damage walls, ceilings, or floors when moving furniture or equipment.
  • Do not brush, sweep, or vacuum damaged building materials.
  • Do not enter demarcated asbestos removal areas for any reason.

Getting Assistance

If you have any questions related to this information or would like EH&S staff to evaluate possible asbestos in your work environment, please call EH&S at 335-3041.  Ask for the asbestos staff.  Facilities Services, Housing and Dining and EH&S are committed to safely and effectively managing asbestos together on campus.