To Point Count or Not to Point Count
When dealing with asbestos, we sometimes come across analytical results that can, at the least, make us question our knowledge regarding the applicable regulations we as consultants pour over looking for answers regarding compliance.
Recently, questions have been posed regarding the proper procedures when dealing with materials with trace amounts (< 1%) of asbestos detected by laboratory analysis.
When a laboratory reports a material as < 1%, you have one of two options: 1) treat the material as positive (> 1%) and adhere to all applicable federal, state and local regulations; or 2) perform a more precise analysis which is called a “point count analysis” (1000 point analysis in California and 400 for the rest of the U.S.). If the results of this analysis differed from the PLM bulk analysis result, the point count result takes precedence.
In the instance where the point count analysis confirmed an asbestos concentration that was < 1% (0.5%, for example), this means the material is not considered hazardous asbestos waste and can be thrown away as construction debris. However, while a confirmed concentration of < 1% does not fall under the definition of asbestos-containing material, there are still Cal-OSHA regulations to be adhered to. Under Cal-OSHA asbestos regulations, material that is found to contain > 0.1% asbestos is deemed to be an “Asbestos-Containing Construction Material” (ACCM) and thus is subject to Cal-OSHA regulation.
However, what do you do if you receive a 1000 point count result of < 0.1%? Believe it or not, this result can come up quite a bit. This result tends to show up more in materials like joint compound, plaster, and stucco. So the main questions that arise when dealing with < 0.1% are 1) how do we handle the material? and, more importantly, 2) who can handle the material?
In the past, there have been varying responses to these questions. Some would say that < 0.1% falls below regulatory limits and thus Cal-OSHA regulations would not apply, basically ruling out having to use personnel with appropriate asbestos training or a licensed abatement company for removal. Others would say that while it is under Cal-OSHA regulatory limits, some safe work practices would still apply or, at a minimum, be recommended. These might include a Prop 65 notification, worker protection, some form of asbestos training and the use of wet methods when removing the material because even at a low concentration, airborne concentrations can exceed allowable limits during removal activities.
Recently, these questions have been posed to regulatory agencies, looking for clarification. Recent correspondence from Cal-OSHA has been particularly interesting. According to Cal-OSHA, a reported result of < 0.1% by point count analysis in itself would be deemed by them to be “inconclusive” in their eyes and would require further analysis. This makes sense since, as mentioned in the EPA Publication EPA/600/R-93/116, the “precision of point count analysis itself can be equal to + 1%”.
Another question posed was at < 0.1%, who can handle the material and what training do they need to possess? Even though the result of < 0.1% falls below the Cal-OSHA definition of asbestos-containing construction material, you are still doing asbestos-related work. Furthermore, and this has been confirmed in recent correspondence, in Cal-OSHA regulations 1529 (Asbestos in Construction) and 5208 (General Industry Asbestos Standard), the term “asbestos” is not defined by a specific concentration and thus means asbestos in any amount. This means the requirements of 1529 and 5208 would apply. This can include the following:
So based on these currently views from Cal-OSHA, whenever asbestos is encountered in any amount in a material, Cal-OSHA regulations, either in full or in part, would apply.
To answer the question “who can handle this material?” when the result is <0.1%, the simple answer is anyone who can comply with the Cal-OSHA 1529 and 5208. In all practicality though, most general contractors can’t meet all the requirements for Cal-OSHA compliance when dealing with asbestos (i.e. proper employee asbestos training, etc.) and if this is the case, your only real option is a licensed abatement contractor.
Alta Environmental specializes in providing Building Science Services including asbestos and other hazardous materials assessments. For more information call us at (800) 777-0605.
Article written by Jim Byers, Senior Consultant (firstname.lastname@example.org).