The Asbestos Abatement Program is responsible for ensuring abatement projects are accomplished safely and in accordance with the law; provides guidance, consultation, and enforcement to ensure compliance with the Oklahoma Asbestos Control Act.
The principle functions include:
- Inspect public and private asbestos removal sites for compliance with applicable rules and procedures, for the protection of abatement workers, the public, and the environment.
- Consult with building owners and agents to develop plans of action for the maintenance or removal of asbestos.
- Audit asbestos training providers in Oklahoma, to ensure their compliance with the federal “Asbestos in Schools” rule.
- Audit asbestos training providers in Oklahoma, to ensure training meets Oklahoma and EPA requirements.
- Inspect for asbestos in buildings prior to purchase or lease by the Oklahoma Department of Central Services to minimize risk of asbestos exposure to state employees and the public.
- License Contractors, Workers, Supervisors, Project designers, Inspectors, and Management Planners.
The Division also administers an Environmental Protection Agency Grant to ensure proper manage of asbestos hazards in schools under the Asbestos Hazards Emergency Response Act (AHERA). Schools are audited to assure that all asbestos material within the facilities is properly contained ensuring the protection of students and staff from the hazards of asbestos.
Asbestos Background & History
Asbestos was used for many years as an effective insulating or sound dampening material. Examples of materials used included:
- Thermal insulation - found in many school, commercial and industrial heating and piping systems.
- Electrical insulation - for electrical wiring and resistance heating appliances
- Sound absorbing material - particularly in school auditoriums and classrooms and office buildings
- Fireproofing - most pre-1975 building codes required asbestos fireproofing on metal frame, multistory buildings
- Decorative material - as light colored, fluffy ceiling surface
- Additive to increase the tensile strength of building materials - used in most floor tiles, roofing fabrics, and "transite" sheets and piping.
- Brake and clutch pad material
Thirty million tons of asbestos building materials have been used in the U.S. between 1900 and 1975. It would be a reasonable assumption, based on population, that one to two percent of this was used in Oklahoma, or between 300,000 to 600,000 tons. Eighty to ninety percent of this asbestos is probably still in place.
Asbestos became increasingly associated with adverse health effects, such as:
- Asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs, leading to disability and eventual death)
- Lung cancer
- Mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of lungs and abdomen, usually fatal).
Asbestos is now recognized by federal OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), the National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a known human carcinogen.
Beginning in the early 1980's there has been considerable effort and expense to remove asbestos building materials from structures, especially from schools and other public buildings. The asbestos removal is primarily in the form of building interior demolition, which can create large quantities of asbestos dust.
Because asbestos is a lung hazard and only adversely effects people when inhaled, asbestos removal has been closely regulated by Oklahoma and most other states, and by the federal government through OSHA and EPA regulations. The principal agency for asbestos regulation in Oklahoma is the Oklahoma Department of Labor.