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Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that forms long, thin, strong fibers. Asbestos fibers do not dissolve in water, and they resist heat and fire. They are not easily broken down by chemicals or bacteria. Because of these factors, asbestos was widely used in building construction materials beginning in the late 1800s. Asbestos is still present in older materials and is still used in some products. Asbestos may be found in:
Exposure to asbestos may have serious health effects.
Older houses are more likely to have been built with asbestos containing-building materials. Across the state of Rhode Island, the percentage of older homes varies.
Individuals employed in construction, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing are more likely to be exposed to asbestos because asbestos-containing materials are still used in these industries.
People may breathe in or swallow asbestos fibers, called exposure. It can happen wherever asbestos materials are damaged or disturbed, including in the workplace, home, or community. Undisturbed and well-maintained asbestos material does not present an immediate risk. Asbestos-containing materials that are worn, peeling, crumbling, cracking, or disturbed can release fibers into the air. Asbestos fibers may be released:
You can't tell if a material contains asbestos by looking at it. To find out, a trained, licensed asbestos professional can inspect material, collect samples, and perform analysis.
If building materials aren’t damaged and won’t be disturbed, you do not need to have them inspected unless the building will be demolished. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed should be left alone.
In order to remove, repair, encapsulate, enclose, or otherwise disturb asbestos in a regulated building in Rhode Island, you must submit an Asbestos Abatement Plan, prepared by a licensed Asbestos Project Designer, to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). For demolition projects, you must have an Asbestos Abatement Plan approved by RIDOH before you get a demolition permit from your city or town.
Even if your one or two-family home is exempt from the abatement plan requirement for renovations, it is best practice and RIDOH strongly recommends hiring a licensed Asbestos Contractor to perform any necessary removal, repairs, encapsulation, enclosure, or asbestos abatement. Waste with asbestos-containing material is hazardous waste.
The federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and its regulations require public school districts and non-profit schools including charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions to:
Rhode Island is one of 12 states that have an AHERA waiver from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement and oversee their own regulations for asbestos in schools. Personnel working on asbestos activities in schools in Rhode Island must be trained and licensed in accordance with the Rules and Regulations for Asbestos Control (216-RICR-50-15-1). If asbestos-containing material is damaged or will be disturbed by renovations, it must be repaired or removed. Asbestos abatement must also comply with the federal Asbestos National Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). RIDOH is responsible for monitoring compliance with AHERA and NESHAP requirements in Rhode Island.
In addition, the Department of Human Services (DHS) requires compliance with the Rules and Regulations for Asbestos Control for licensure as a child care center or family daycare.
The EPA website provides more information on AHERA and NESHAP.
Breathing asbestos can cause tiny asbestos fibers to get stuck in the lungs and irritate lung tissues, causing illness, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Symptoms of some of these diseases may not appears until 30 or 40 years after exposure. Some people are more likely to get sick from asbestos, including:
Breathing asbestos can cause:
Asbestos exposure also increases the risk of developing certain cancers:
Published March 2022.
This projected was created through a collaboration between RIDOH and DataSpark. The project was supported by cooperative agreement number NUE1EH001364-05-03, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC or the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Rhode Island's Environmental Public Health Tracking Program is part of a nation-wide network that provides information that allows people to understand and take action to prevent and control environmental hazards and related health effects.
Discover how RIDOH protects Rhode Islanders from exposures to carcinogenic airborne asbestos.
CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program delivers information and data to protect the nation from health issues arising from or directly related to environmental factors.
Explore the EPA's web pages for more asbestos information and requirements.