Asbestos in the air of public buildings: A public health risk?
Air Pollution, Indoor
The Environmental Health and Safety Council of the American Health Foundation has examined current estimates of cancer risks associated with the presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in public buildings. The Council finds that even complete removal of asbestos from all of these buildings will provide no measurable benefit to public health. The removal of nonfriable ACM only can be postulated to protect the public against a small hypothetical risk that cannot be measured epidemiologically. Moreover, examination of the assumptions used in the risk assessment calculations leads to the conclusion that these small calculated risks are likely to represent overestimates. In recent surveys, the measured asbestos levels in indoor air cast some doubt on whether occupant exposure to asbestos levels are contributed to significantly by ACM even when some of the material is friable or in bad condition. Furthermore, the models used for cancer risk estimates assume no threshold level for cancer and conclude that any exposure is carcinogenic. This may be unjustified in light of information on the mechanisms for some asbestos-caused disease. Based on the best available data, it is very unlikely that cancer will result from indoor asbestos exposure, especially where ACM is well maintained.