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Asbestos Awareness Toolbox Talk

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials. Due to the materials properties – fiber strength, insulation, fire-retardant, and chemical resistant, asbestos has been used for a wide range of manufactured goods and building materials, such as friction products, gaskets, coatings, and thermal system insulation, etc.

When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed, microscopic fibers become airborne and can cause significant health problems if inhaled into the lungs. The goal of the Cornell University EH&S Asbestos Management Program is to minimize employee exposure to the hazards of asbestos, to provide technical services related to University asbestos abatement, and to ensure all aspects of an asbestos abatement project are conducted in accordance to appropriate regulations.


  • At a federal level, OSHA and EPA set standards for worker protection, asbestos in school buildings, and the manufacturing/commerce of asbestos containing materials.
  • At a state level, NYS Department of Labor (DOL) regulates the training of abatement professionals, project enforcement; and Department of Environmental Conservation(DEC) regulates waste disposal.
  • The CU Asbestos Management Program has been established to ensure that asbestos containing material is appropriately managed to minimize potential health risks to the University community.

 Identifying asbestos

  • Non-Friable, any material that when dry, can not be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder and is not capable of being released into the air by hand pressure. Includes transite, roof and floor materials.
  • Friable, any material that when dry, can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder or capable of being released into the air by hand pressure. Includes pipe, fitting, and duct insulation, applied ceilings, fireproofing, and paper wrap (pipes & ducts).
  • Surveys and sampling of building materials are conducted by third party Environmental consultants for determination of asbestos containing material (ACM).
  • Do not disturb ACMs. If you observe damaged asbestos containing material (or suspect asbestos containing materials), please contact Customer Service immediately at 607-255-5322.

 Routes of exposure and health effects

  • The primary route of asbestos exposure is through the inhalation of fibers into the lungs which can lead to cancer, scarring, and chronic inflammation, especially when combined with smoking.
  • The secondary route is through fluid ingestion; this can lead to cancers of the esophagus, stomach and intestine.

 Asbestos abatement

  • Only licensed asbestos abatement contractors can remove asbestos containing materials.
  • Asbestos abatement is performed using specialized work practices and controls to protect building occupants and workers.
  • Asbestos abatement projects are typically managed through the Facilities Services Maintenance Management group. Contact Customer Service (607-255-5322) to initiate a service request for asbestos survey or an asbestos abatement project.


  • Workers with the potential to be exposed to asbestos, such as building care, mechanics, and skilled trades, must receive annual asbestos awareness training. Asbestos Awareness training is available online at CU Learn course number EHS 2384.