Gino DiCaro

Naturally occurring asbestos

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, Aug. 8, 2008

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced in a June workshop that they were recommending the adoption of a revised definition of asbestos, a new test method, and a lower threshold for determining the presence of asbestos (It is apparently difficult to repeat lab results with the current test method). Unfortunately, industry experts tell us that if this revision is adopted it would likely result in a finding of asbestos at extremely small levels throughout the state.  This would bring construction projects (schools, highways, dams, etc.) to a halt and cause chaos from a worker exposure and waste disposal perspective.

CARB, working with Cal EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, is proposing to revise the definition of the term asbestiform to include fragments of rock that are composed of the minerals actinolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, riebeckite and cummingtonite-grunerite.   These are fragments which appear like asbestos under a microscope, but have never been shown to produce the same human health hazard associated with asbestos fibers.

In addition, CARB is also recommending the lowering of asbestos from 0.25% to "any detectable level" and the specification of Transmission Electron Microscopy for detection rather than Polarized Light Microscopy.  We are told that this will further complicate the ability of laboratories to distinguish between actual asbestos and the rock fragments in question.

We understand from CARB staff that their plan is to have one additional workshop on this issue in September and then bring it to the Board for adoption in January.  A coalition of public and private stakeholders have banded together in an effort to slow down the process and educate the regulators and the Administration about the problems associated with this course of action.

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