Industrial Hygiene


Last Updated: June 30, 2020

Asbestos is a term used for different mineral fibers that occur naturally in rock and soil.  Because of its strength and heat resistance, asbestos has been used in a variety of building materials and the automobile industry.  Asbestos has been commonly used in building flame retardants, insulation around pipes, floor tile, cement, mastics, brake pads, and more.


Tremolite asbestosAsbestos has been commonly used in building flame retardants, insulation around pipes, floor tile, cement, mastics, brake pads, and more. The original 1989 ban of asbestos containing products was overturned in 1991. As a result, only a few uses remained banned such as corrugated paper, rollboard, flooring felt, pipe insulation, wall-patching compounds, spray-applied surfacing (fireproofing/insulation), and new commercial uses beginning after August 25, 1989. The Environmental Protection Agency does continue to ban the use of asbestos in products that have not typically contained asbestos.


Asbestos Exposure

People can be exposed to asbestos fibers released into the air from asbestos containing materials that are disturbed during product use, construction, repair, demolition, and maintenance activities.  Intact asbestos containing material does not typically release asbestos fibers into the air unless it is damaged or disturbed.  Some asbestos containing materials are friable and are more easily damaged, pulverized, crumbled, or turned to dust which may release breathable fibers.

Health Effects

Asbestos is a dangerous substance and should be avoided. People that are exposed to asbestos do not always develop health problems. Breathing asbestos can cause tiny asbestos fibers to get stuck in the lungs and irritate lung tissues. The major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are related to the lungs and include:  lung cancer, mesothelioma (a rare form of lung cancer), and asbestosis (a serious non-cancer lung disease).  The risk of developing harmful health effects increases with greater exposure to asbestos.  Pre-existing breathing or lung conditions and smoking increases this risk.  Disease symptoms may develop many years after the exposure, and it can be difficult to associate them with asbestos. Talk to your health care provider if you suspect you were exposed to asbestos or have an asbestos-related disease.

Role of Army Industrial Hygiene in Asbestos Program
  • The U.S. Army.  Installation asbestos management is the responsibility of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Installation Management Agency (IMA).  Army installations must be in compliance with federal, state, and local (including overseas) regulations.  There are additional Army-specific guidance documents and regulations listed in the Army–Related Asbestos Resources section below.
  • Serve as the principal advisor and consultant (competent person) (29 CFR 1926.1101) to the Asbestos Control Manager and for Department of the Army operations involving personnel, to include military and DA civilian, on the installation concerning asbestos abatement projects.
  • Provide technical input to the Installation Asbestos Management Team/Toxics Management Team for the selection of proper methods for abating potential asbestos health hazards.
  • Advise government-contracting officials on the preparation and review of contract specifications and proposals for asbestos abatement issues.
  • Complete and maintain appropriate training, certification and licensing as required to advise and consult on asbestos hazard management activities.

Army Asbestos Medical Surveillance Program

The Army Asbestos Management Program is active on installations worldwide. Over the past decade, exposure to asbestos to Army personnel has decreased due to abatement activities and the contracting out of asbestos work.


Army-Related Asbestos /Resources

Federal Regulations and Guidance

Asbestos Danger sign