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Clean Air Act Regulations on Asbestos

The 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) is a federal law that was first passed in the United States in 1963 to help improve air pollution and provide more protection to human health and the environment. Drastic revisions were made to the Clean Air Act, both in 1970 and then even more so in 1990, implementing stronger regulations and enforcements as well as emphasizing more cost-effective approaches to cleaning up the environment. One substance covered by the Clean Air Act is asbestos.

The Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to set regulations on the use, management and removal of asbestos. State and local government and environmental agencies are responsible for monitoring any activity where asbestos containing materials may be involved, however the CAA does give the EPA authority to step in and enforce compliance when necessary. The Clean Air Act allows for agencies to regulate and intervene whenever there asbestos could potentially be dispersed into the air, causing pollution and risk to public health or the environment.

The Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rules, which fall under the Clean Air Act, ban the following asbestos products:

  • Asbestos containing spray-applied surfacing materials used for fireproofing, insulating or decorating
  • Thermal System Insulation, either pre-formed (molded) block or wet-applied insulation for pipes, boilers, and hot water tanks

Exceptions to the rules above are if the asbestos containing surfacing material is troweled on versus sprayed or if the asbestos fibers in the spray on materials are encapsulated with a binder during spraying.

Industry or construction workers as well as homeowners and consumers should take caution and always inquire whether the products they are working with or around contain asbestos. Anything that contains less than 1% asbestos does not fall under any rules or regulations.