NAS Patuxent River is continuing with its asbestos inspection and abatement, and wants personnel to know what it means for them and the buildings they work in.
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion, and historically had been used extensively in construction projects throughout the U.S. until the early 1980’s, primarily for thermal insulation, fireproofing, and acoustical insulation. During the twentieth century, some 30 million tons of asbestos were used in industrial sites, homes, schools, shipyards and commercial buildings in the United States.
“Just about every construction project prior to 1981 included use of asbestos-containing materials, and Pax River has a number of buildings on this installation that have been in use for up to 75 years,” said Kevin Newman, NAS Patuxent River Safety Program director. “But the important thing for people to know is that just because they work in a building that has asbestos-containing materials or potential asbestos-containing materials, it doesn’t mean they have been exposed to friable asbestos.”
Newman explained that while asbestos can be found in buildings at NAS Patuxent River, it is only hazardous if it becomes friable – that is, produces airborne fibers – and exposure to those airborne fibers occurs over an extended period of time. Non-friable asbestos does not present a health risk to employees if it is not damaged through drilling, sanding, or other activity.
“It’s when the asbestos-containing materials that contain more than one percent asbestos become dry, crumbly, and can be crushed into a powder by hand pressure that exposure risk occurs, and the goal of our inspections is to find and remediate that,” said Newman.
Personnel from the NAS Patuxent River Asbestos Program and Safety Office are inspecting buildings with known or suspected asbestos-containing materials (ACM) or potential asbestos-containing materials (PACM). Upon investigation, some areas may need to be closed off to personnel until further testing or abatement action can be completed.
“Closing off a section of a building does not necessarily mean that occupants have been exposed,” added Newman. “It just means we’re taking every available caution during the inspection or abatement.”
After an inspection, follow on testing will be performed if damaged ACM or PACM is found, and abatement actions will be conducted to ensure there are no exposures in the future. Asbestos awareness training will also be offered by tenant commands for their personnel who may come in contact with asbestos.
“We’re working with tenant commands to make sure our buildings are thoroughly inspected and abated where necessary for everyone here at Pax”, said Newman. “And part of that is informing personnel about the program.”