Division Title

Asbestos Program

Asbestos Oversight Program


Asbestos–Containing Materials (ACM) may be present at the NIH as: 

  • Pipe, duct and equipment insulation
  • Core material of Virginia Metal wall partitions
  • Original wooden doors 
  • Acoustical ceiling plaster
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Duct mastic
  • Floor tiles and their associated mastic
  • Asbestos-cement sheets (transite board) 
  • Spray-on fireproofing

These materials are commonly found in mechanical rooms, office spaces, pipe chases, stairwells and above suspended ceilings.


The potential for ACM to release airborne fibers depends on its degree of friability. Friability is the ability of materials, when dry, to be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure. The sprayed-on or troweled-on materials used as acoustical plaster on ceilings or as fireproofing is considered friable and readily releases airborne fibers if disturbed. Materials such as vinyl-asbestos floor tiles are considered non-friable and do not release airborne fibers unless sanded or broken.


Whenever suspect ACMs are encountered in a work area we confirm the presence or absence of asbestos by sampling and analysis the suspect material.


We maintain information regarding the NIH locations where the presence or absence of asbestos was documented.

For more information, please consult the NIHAsbestos Oversight Program.

Health Effects

Asbestos can cause disabling disease and several types of cancer if significant amounts of the fibers are inhaled. The symptoms  do not appear 20 or more years after initial exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc) of air over an 8-hour work shift, and a short term exposure limit (STEL) of not more than 1 f/cc averaged over 30 minutes.


If you are potentially exposed to asbestos in concentrations greater than the PEL exposure limits as a part of your work, you are required to participate in the asbestos medical surveillance program provided byexternal linkOccupational Medical Service (OMS) and the pdf documentNIH Respiratory Protection Program provided by the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS).


The management of ACMs at the NIH campus involves the efforts of several Divisions within the NIH.


The DOHS staff provide facilities personnel with training and guidance in recognizing and responding to potential asbestos containing materials in buildings throughout the campus. Trained Office of Research Facilities Development and Operations (ORF) personnel may work around asbestos containing materials; however, they are not permitted to disturb or remove asbestos. Employees and contractors are responsible for ensuring that areas are assessed for asbestos containing materials prior to commencement of any renovation or demolition activities. If new suspect materials are discovered during the course of a project, you should halt operations and immediately contact us. 


The DOHS offers technical guidance on employee protection when disturbing asbestos, as well as coordination of collection and analysis of suspected ACMs. We also review asbestos abatement plans submitted by contractors and coordinate air monitoring of asbestos abatement projects to assess airborne levels and to provide re-occupancy clearances.


NIH's policy regarding asbestos abatement oversight and clearance sampling can be found in the NIH  

Asbestos Oversight Program.


The Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) coordinates final shipments of asbestos waste. The DEP provides shipping documents for compliance with federal waste regulations and signs as the “generator” on all shipping documents.


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