Budget Woes Place Asbestos Demolition Inspections on Chopping Block

Asbestos Inspections are Required by the Clean Air Act

April 22, 2009 - Asbestos inspections for demolitions, remodels, and other construction work are requirements under the Clean Air Act and have been traditionally enforced by individual states. As states face increasingly tight budgets, services that are not designated a top priority or vital are viewed as candidates for budget cuts. In an effort to trim spending, some states are transferring the responsibility of asbestos inspections and enforcement back to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While this has no effect on the laws regulating asbestos, there are concerns that the EPA is not adequately prepared to effectively enforce asbestos regulations at the same level as state efforts.

Citing budget shortfalls, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed budget eliminates the $350,000 asbestos inspection program, $100,000 of which comes from a federal grant. If the program cut were approved, the responsibility for asbestos inspections would revert to the EPA's regional office in Chicago, which critics say lack adequate resources to do the job.

The state of Georgia is also returning the enforcement responsibilities to the EPA. Due to budget constraints, Georgia has discontinued asbestos inspections, complaint follow-up and enforcement. The state will continue to process notifications for asbestos renovation, encapsulation and demolition, issue asbestos contractor licenses and approve asbestos supervisor training courses. The regional office of the EPA will now handle inspections and regulation enforcement.

Public at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Without localized enforcement of asbestos regulations, the public runs a risk of unknowingly being exposed to asbestos from sloppy demolition work. In 2008, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Air Quality Division conducted 411 unannounced inspections to test asbestos emission compliance as required by the Clean Air Act. The inspections resulted in 53 violation notices in 2008, and 11 felony counts of criminal violations involving asbestos demolition.

If asbestos inspection and enforcement under EPA guidance are limited, there will be little or no assurance of environmental safety or proper asbestos remediation techniques. Sloppy asbestos demolition and renovation could also lead to exposure concerns for later occupants of the renovated site.

Asbestos Diseases are Slow to Develop

Unfortunately, due to the long latency period for asbestos diseases to develop, the potential public impact of improper asbestos demolition and remediation will not be seen for decades. For members of the general public, staying informed on the potential hazards of asbestos exposure is the first step to preventing unnecessary health risks. For additional information, please see:

  • Asbestos Exposure, Diseases and Risk Factors
  • Asbestos Use in Buildings
  • Asbestos Use in the Home