Asbestos FAQs

Questions about asbestos? Contact the EH&S Main Office at: (413) 545-2682, or the Site Assessment Services Manager Michael Grover at: (413) 545-6043,

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral silicate that forms in the earth and was mined like iron or lead.  Asbestos fibers are extremely resilient and do not break down or degrade over time.  These fibers are also fire and chemical resistant.  Mined asbestos rock material was broken down in factories and added to a wide variety of products to help strengthen them.  Over time, manufacturers developed methods to break down asbestos fibers to microscopic size and add those fibers to over 3,600 different products. 

What does UMass do with asbestos?

The University of Massachusetts has an Asbestos Management Plan filed and approved by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for all asbestos containing materials.  EH&S oversees and manages the Asbestos Management Plan which involves:

An All Hazard Review (AHR) is conducted on any building materials to be impacted for maintenance, renovation, construction or activities that disturb the material. The AHR identifies the asbestos materials to be handled according all Federal and State regulations.

The management of asbestos materials in place with routine visual inspections and documentation.
Removal of any damaged or potentially damaged asbestos materials through asbestos licensed professionals.
All personnel involved with asbestos containing materials at The University of Massachusetts are licensed through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as asbestos workers, supervisors, inspectors, and project monitors.
Asbestos abatement is conducted by a licensed Asbestos Abatement Contractor.  A third party Environmental Consultant is hired to perform project oversite and final visual and air testing. 

Is asbestos dangerous to my health?

Yes, exposure to asbestos fibers can be dangerous to your health.  Once inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, the scarring of the lung tissue, or is linked to lung cancer and Mesothelioma, the cancer of the mesothelial tissue around your internal organs. The risk of adverse health effects is dependent on the amount of asbestos inhaled and the duration of the exposure, typically measured in years.  

The Mesothelioma Prognosis Network and the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center are useful resources if you would like more information on Mesothelioma. 

How do I know if a material contains asbestos?

To determine if a material contains asbestos, a sample of the materials must be collected by a licensed asbestos inspector and sent to an accredited asbestos laboratory for Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) determination. 

As part of the Asbestos Management Plan, EH&S maintains a database of all known and sampled materials for the UMass campus. If a material has not previously been sampled for determination, an EH&S licensed asbestos inspector will collect samples of the suspect material following DEP sampling protocol and send the material to an accredited lab for determination.