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Asbestos is a generic term referring to a family of naturally occurring silicate minerals with a fibrous structure. Types of asbestos minerals most commonly used in commercial products were Chrysotile, Amosite and Crocidolite with other forms being less common. Asbestos is known to pose human health hazards. Inhalation of fibers into the lungs is the main route of entry into the body for asbestos fibers. Prolonged exposure to elevated amounts of airborne asbestos fibers can result in Asbestosis, a fibrotic lung disease (which causes scarring of the alveoli and affects the body's ability to oxygenate blood). Epidemiological studies have found that asbestos exposure can also cause other diseases including lung cancer and mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity).  Asbestos exposure is implicated in some cancers of the digestive tract.

In recognition of these health hazards, agencies of the Federal and State Government have established Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) for asbestos fibers: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for industrial and construction exposures, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for community air quality (and for worker protection).  The current PEL for asbestos fibers is 0.1 f/cc for employees working around or with asbestos containing building materials (ACBM).  The EPA regulates materials that contain more than 1% asbestos.  These asbestos containing materials (ACM) have special handling and disposal procedures.

Employees whose job duties may bring them into contact with asbestos, must have a minimum of a two-hour asbestos awareness training.  Additional training and protective equipment are required before handling any asbestos containing material at UNC.  Contact EH&S for information regarding available training and awareness programs.