Asbestos

The following information is available from the US EPA asbestos web page. http://www.epa.gov/asbestos

Para obtener más información específica sobre asbestos porfavor visite la pagina de Internet: UCSC asbestos web page in Spanish.

Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring, fibrous silicate minerals mined for their useful properties such as thermal insulation, chemical and thermal stability, and high tensile strength. Asbestos is commonly used as an acoustic insulator, and in thermal insulation, fire proofing and other building materials. Many products in use today contain asbestos.

Asbestos is made up of microscopic bundles of fibers that may become airborne when asbestos- containing materials are damaged or disturbed. When these fibers get into the air they may be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems.

Asbestos-Related Diseases

Exposure to airborne friable asbestos may result in a potential health risk because persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers that remain in the lung. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases including: asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. Smoking increases the risk of developing illness from asbestos exposure.

Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure include:

  • Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that irritate lung tissues and cause the tissues to scar. The scarring makes it hard for oxygen to get into the blood. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. There is no effective treatment for asbestosis.
  • Lung Cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. People who work in the mining, milling, manufacturing of asbestos, and those who use asbestos and its products are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and a change in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent chest pains, hoarseness, and anemia.

  • Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining (membrane) of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart and almost all cases are linked to exposure to asbestos. This disease may not show up until many years after asbestos exposure. This is why great efforts are being made to prevent school children from being exposed.

Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects. Disease symptoms may take several years to develop following exposure. If you are concerned about possible exposure, consult a physician who specializes in lung diseases (pulmonologist).

For more information on these and other health effects of asbestos exposure see the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's Web site.

Asbestos on Campus

Many facilities at UCSC contain asbestos due to its presence in the building materials used during construction. If you suspect a material in your area may contain asbestos and it appears damaged or in disrepair, contact EH&S at 459-2553. EH&S maintains a database with detailed information related to historical asbestos building material surveys. If there is a question about a specific area not covered in a past survey, EH&S can conduct appropriate sampling to determine whether asbestos is present.

Campus Asbestos Notice

The Campus Asbestos Notice contains general information about asbestos on the University of California, Santa Cruz campus, and is required by law to be provided to all employees.

Campus Asbestos Notice (Spanish version)

Asbestos Waste Disposal

Disposal of all asbestos containing waste materials (debris, equipment, Transite pipe, etc) must be coordinated with the Environmental Health & Safety Office. Please contact EH&S at 459-2553 for assistance.

Asbestos Information on the Web

Cal-OSHA's asbestos page

Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (part of CDC) asbestos page