What is Asbestos?  

The word "asbestos" is derived from a Greek adjective meaning inextinguishable.  Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is distinguished from other minerals by the fact that its crystals form into long, thin fibers.

The primary sites of commercial production are Canada, The Soviet Union, South Africa, and the United States.  Once extracted from the Earth, asbestos containing rock is crushed, milled (ground), and graded producing the long thread-like fibers of material.

Asbestos gained wide spread use because it was plentiful, readily available, low in cost, and because of its unique properties – it doesn't burn, it is strong, it conducts heat and electricity poorly, and is impervious to chemical corrosion.

Asbestos was banned in 1978 but is still available in building products at a lower concentration.

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Types of Asbestos:

Asbestos minerals are divided into two groups – Serpentine and Amphibole.  The distinction between groups is based upon its crystalline structure.  Serpentine minerals have sheet or layered structure and amphiboles have a chain-like crystal structure.


  • Chrysotile – the only mineral in the serpentine.  It is the most commonly used type of asbestos and accounts for approximately 95% of the asbestos found in buildings in the United States.  Chrysotile is known as "white asbestos" named for its natural color.


  • Amosite – the second most likely type of asbestos to be found in buildings and is referred to as "brown asbestos."
  • Crocidolite – is utilized in high temperature insulation application and is referred to as "blue asbestos."

     CHRYSOTILE               AMOSITE             CROCIDOLITE

Amosite Chrysotile Crocidolite

Uses of Asbestos:   

Asbestos may be a component of materials such as:

  • Ceramic tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Floor tiles and mastic
  • Fireproofing
  • Sheetrock joint compound
  • Plaster
  • Spray-on acoustical ceiling insulation
  • Roofing material
  • Drywall
  • Laboratory counter tops
  • Pipe insulation

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Asbestos Awareness: 

The Office of Environmental Health & Safety (OEHS) provides asbestos awareness training classes to maintenance and custodial employees to inform them of the dangers of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM), help them recognize suspected ACM, and instruct them on how to report damages ACM.

Warning Labels:

"CAUTION:  Asbestos. Hazardous. Do Not Disturb Without Proper Training and Equipment"

"DANGER: Contains Asbestos Fibers. Avoid Creating Dust. Cancer and Lung Disease Hazard"

These labels, which may be seen in areas of the University's buildings, indicate that asbestos-containing materials are suspected or have been identified in the material that is labeled.

                CAUTION                                      DANGER

Caution_Asbestos Danger_Asbestos

Corrective Measures

Tulane University policy is to restrict access into areas where damaged asbestos presents and exposure hazed.  Corrective measures may be required in order to restore a safety working environment.

Commonly employed corrective measures may include:

  • Removal (gross removal or via glovebag) 
  • Repair
  • Enclosure
  • Encapsulation

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Disturbance/Removal of ACM

Prior to any renovation or demolition on the Tulane University campuses, OEHS is to coordinate the project with Facilities Services.

Individuals, including outside contractors, who perform jobs, i.e. pulling cables, conducting building repairs and/or renovations, etc., which disturb building materials or who work in an area with suspected asbestos-containing materials, should be made aware prior to work activities of the possibility of asbestos being present in the material(s).

Materials suspect of containing asbestos are sampled by OEHS and analyzed by an accredited laboratory.

The University's Asbestos Management Plan can be referenced to determine where asbestos is suspected or has been identified in a building before work activities begin.

Materials identified with asbestos content are properly removed by licensed asbestos abatement contractors or by Tulane Facilities Services Abatement team who have been trained to remove small quantities of asbestos materials.   

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Asbestos Management Program

The Asbestos Management Program is an ongoing activity of coordinating and maintenance activities with safe work practices involving asbestos.  It is designed to maintain an accurate accounting of ACM on all campuses and ensure that all work involving ACM is performed in such a manner that eliminates any potential for asbestos exposure.

Tulane's buildings, as required, have been inspected for the presence of asbestos-containing materials.  The survey results and the University's plans for managing the asbestos-containing materials are found in the Asbestos-Containing Materials Survey and Management Plan.

These documents are available for review at the locations:

  • OEHS – Tidewater Building, 11th Floor – (504) 988-5486
  • Primate Center – Building "A" Library – (504) 862-8040 


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Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM): Materials that contain greater than 1% asbestos by laboratory polarized light microscopy (PLM) analysis. 

ACM Inspection: Inspection of a building or portion of a building by a State Licensed Asbestos Inspector for ACM, which includes taking samples of suspected ACM, the analysis of these samples by a State Licensed Asbestos Analytical Laboratory using PLM, and a report summarizing the types and locations of identified ACM.

ACM Management Plan: Plan developed by a State Licensed Asbestos Management Planner which describes how ACM will be properly managed in-place, while ensuring the safety of the building occupants, visitors, and maintenance/custodial personnel, until such materials can be properly removed.     

Friable ACM: ACM that can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to a powder by hand pressure, and when disturbed, readily releases asbestos fiber in the air.