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Environment Committee Update
July 9, 2013

Contact: Darren Suarez

New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) Issues a new Guidance Letter Regarding Asbestos

On July 9, 2013 the DOH issued a new interim guidance letter regarding asbestos. The guidance outlines the interim testing requirements for materials containing vermiculite.
The new interim guidance letter will address many of the concerns expressed by members of The Business Council, and should reduce a significant unintended barrier to rehabilitation and reuse. A working group of Business Council membership, laboratories, and industrial hygienists have worked tirelessly with other effected parties to develop an interim solution, until a new testing method can be verified.

The DOH has issued the interim guidance to alleviate some of the significant concern generated by past guidance on the testing of materials containing vermiculite for asbestos. The interim guidance is intended to temporarily fill the need for a sampling method until final methods are approved by DOH.

Background

In June of 2012, the New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) issued an "informational letter" to provide additional guidance regarding the State’s interpretation of standard requirements pertaining to vermiculite. The informational letter represented a departure from prior testing protocols. The DOH letter stated, due to their concerns that the presence of asbestos can be masked by vermiculite; that all material with greater than 10% vermiculite should be assumed to contain asbestos fibers, and therefore be handled as asbestos containing material (ACM).

New Guidance

The guidance provides that where thermal systems insulation (TSI), surfacing material, or other presumed ACM (PACM) or miscellaneous suspect ACM contain 10% vermiculite or less, certified laboratories may use ELAP Certification Manual Item 198.1 to determine the asbestos content of the material. Where TSI, surfacing materials, or other PACM or miscellaneous suspect ACM contain greater than 10% vermiculite, Item 198.6 may be used to evaluate the asbestos content of the material; provided, however, that any test results using this method must be reported with the following conspicuous disclaimer:

“This method does not remove vermiculite and may underestimate the level of
asbestos present in a sample containing greater than 10% vermiculite.”

Results

The new guidance will allow work to proceed and is intended to temporarily fill the need for a sampling and testing method until final methods are approved by DOH.

Next Steps

The DOH is working diligently to review and approve new testing methodologies which can identify the presence of asbestos when vermiculite is present. DOH is intending to complete this work before the fall. If you should have questions please feel free to contact Darren Suarez (OSH, Environment) or Lev Ginsburg (Health).