How Businesses Can Identify Asbestos Risk And Improve Air Quality

Learn about asbestos-containing materials in commercial buildings, health implications, and how to reduce exposure.

March 3, 2023
Last Updated On:
March 3, 2023
Last Updated On:
March 3, 2023

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral widely used till the late 1980s in manufacturing various building materials due to its insulating and fire-resistant properties. In 1989 the EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products after discovering severe health problems associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.

Where is asbestos present in commercial buildings?

Asbestos can be found in many commercial and industrial buildings constructed before the 1980s, such as schools, hospitals, factories, and office buildings. Common places where asbestos may be present in commercial and industrial buildings include:

  • Insulation: Asbestos was used to insulate older buildings' pipes, boilers, and ductwork. It may also be present in loose-fill insulation, such as vermiculite, used in attics and walls.
  • Roofing and siding: Asbestos-containing materials were commonly used in roofing and siding products, such as shingles, tiles, and cement boards.
  • Flooring: Vinyl tiles, sheet flooring, and adhesive used in older flooring products may contain asbestos.
  • Ceiling tiles: Asbestos was often used in ceiling tiles, especially those that were suspended from metal frames.
  • Cement products: Asbestos was added to cement products, such as pipes and blocks, to strengthen and make them more fire-resistant.
Workers Replacing Asbestos Flooring In Commercial Office

Not all older buildings contain asbestos. Even if a facility has asbestos-containing materials, the risk of exposure may be low if the materials are in good condition and not disturbed. However, any renovation or maintenance work that disturbs asbestos-containing materials can release asbestos fibers into the air, so it's crucial to identify and manage these materials properly to prevent exposure.

Workers Removing Asbestos Roofing From School Building

What are the health implications of asbestos exposure?

Asbestos exposure can cause various health problems, especially for those who work with or around asbestos-containing materials. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can become trapped in the lungs and cause damage over time. Here are some of the health problems that can result from asbestos exposure:

  • Lung Cancer: Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Workers who are exposed to asbestos on the job, such as construction workers, miners, and factory workers, are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Mesothelioma: This is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lungs, chest, or abdomen lining. Mesothelioma, which can take years or even decades for the disease to develop, is typically a result of prolonged asbestos exposure.
  • Asbestosis: is a chronic lung condition that can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and permanent lung damage. The scarring of lung tissue causes asbestosis from inhaling asbestos fibers, and it typically takes many years of exposure for the disease to develop.
  • Pleural Disease: This is a non-cancerous condition that affects the lining of the lungs, causing inflammation and fluid buildup. It can be caused by exposure to asbestos and can lead to shortness of breath and chest pain.
Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure Diagram
Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure (

The impact of asbestos exposure on employees and workers can be significant. Those who work with or around asbestos-containing materials are at a higher risk of developing these health problems, and they may not even realize they've been exposed until years or decades later. Asbestos exposure can lead to serious health problems that can impact a worker's quality of life and ability to work, and in some cases, it can be fatal.

Employers must protect their workers from asbestos exposure by identifying and managing asbestos-containing materials, providing proper training and protective equipment, and following safe work practices. By doing so, they can help to minimize the risk of asbestos-related health problems and protect the health and well-being of their employees.

Healthier Workspaces Starts With Sanalife Solutions

How does asbestos affect indoor air quality?

Asbestos can significantly threaten indoor air quality, especially in buildings with asbestos-containing materials that are deteriorating or disturbed during renovations or maintenance work. Businesses can take several steps to improve air quality safety and reduce the risk of asbestos exposure in their buildings:

  1. Identify and manage asbestos-containing materials: Businesses should conduct regular asbestos inspections and have a management plan to identify and safely manage any asbestos-containing materials in their buildings.
  2. Limit access to asbestos-containing areas: Access to areas with asbestos-containing materials should be limited to trained and qualified personnel.
  3. Follow proper maintenance and renovation procedures: Maintenance and renovation work should be performed by trained and licensed professionals using proper techniques to minimize the risk of asbestos exposure.
  4. Provide adequate ventilation: Proper ventilation can help to dilute and remove airborne asbestos fibers.
  5. Protective equipment and training: Employees who may be at risk of asbestos exposure should be provided with protective equipment and training on safe handling and working around asbestos-containing materials.
  6. Air purification is vital to improving indoor air quality in buildings with asbestos-containing materials. Proper air purification systems can help to remove airborne asbestos fibers and reduce the risk of exposure.

Businesses can work with air purification experts like Sanalife to determine the best type of system for their specific needs. It's important to note that air purification systems alone may not completely eliminate the risk of asbestos exposure. Proper management of asbestos-containing materials and safe work practices are still essential to minimizing the risk of exposure.

1970s Constructed Commercial Building With Asbestos

In addition to air purification systems, businesses can take other steps to improve indoor air quality, such as providing proper ventilation, maintaining HVAC systems, and using low-emission cleaning products. Companies can help protect their employees' health and well-being by taking a comprehensive approach to indoor air quality.

Asbestos is a dangerous substance with profound health implications, especially for those who work in or frequent buildings containing asbestos-containing materials. Businesses can improve air quality safety by identifying and managing asbestos-containing materials, limiting access to these areas, following proper maintenance and renovation procedures, providing adequate ventilation, and providing protective equipment and training to employees. 

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