Sunday, July 21, 2013

New Vermiculite Guidance Shifts Liability to Consultants & Owners

On July 9, 2013, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) Environmental Laboratory Approval Program (ELAP) released a further clarification regarding the analysis of surfacing materials, thermal system insulation, and miscellaneous materials that contain vermiculite (nothing has changed regarding loose fill vermiculite this still must be reported as an asbestos containing material (ACM)).  Visit Future Environment Design's Resource Page for the New Interim Vermiculite Guidance 7/9/13 from NYSDOH.

To sum up the changes, when you send surfacing materials, thermal system insulation, and miscellaneous materials for analysis the lab will start with the friable bulk sample method 198.1.  Once the material is determined to contain greater than 10% vermiculite the lab will then use the gravimetric reduction method 198.6.  No matter what result you get with the 198.6 method, the result must be accompanied with the following disclaimer:

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

We think most of you would agree the problem is not with having a disclaimer on results that report >1% asbestos, these are reported as ACM with the disclaimer.  The problem & liability come from materials that are now being reported as < 1% asbestos, these will be reported as non-ACM with the above disclaimer.  As far as we are concerned this disclaimer basically says these results may not be accurate.  This change puts heavy liability on the asbestos inspector (consultant) as the person who under Industrial Code Rule 56 (ICR 56) makes this decision.  As Dr. Eileen Franco, acting director of NYSDOL Division of Safety and Health, stated "The Certified Inspector who performs the sample collection and analysis in support of the required asbestos survey is responsible for determining if a material is ACM or not.  If they classify it as ACM, it is ACM and covered by ICR 56.  If they classify it as non-ACM, ICR 56 does not apply.  DOL enforces ICR 56 which is for asbestos.  If a product has greater than 1% asbestos it is asbestos. If they do further testing of something with >10% vermiculite and it is less than or equal to 1% asbestos it is non-ACM. "

Certified Asbestos Free by Who?
Thank you Mr. Henry Alilionis for the photo.
 In our opinion, this is insufficient to advise a client on what to do with a material that has a result of < 1% ACM with the disclaimer.  So the question is how do we proceed?  We obviously need more information.  It means asbestos inspectors need to do more research on the material (material safety data sheets, manufacture specifications, etc.) and the source of the vermiculite.  If that is not possible for whatever reason, maybe other types of analysis could be used.  Presently, other methods available are the Cincinnati method (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) method A 600/R-04/004) which is a research method or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D22.07 method, neither are approved by NYSDOH ELAP.  However, at this point NYSDOH has given us a result which says the material is non-ACM with a disclaimer.  As asbestos inspectors we must address the disclaimer.  NYSDOH has not given us a way to do that, allowing us to find our own way.  Our advice would be to research the material and if that is now successful, then use one of the other lab methods to address the disclaimer.  In our view this is what a reasonable person would do to avoid the potential liability of exposing construction workers to asbestos.
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