Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Asbestos is one of the most highly regulated substances in the US. In Montana, asbestos-related activities are regulated by federal agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Occupational Safety and health Administration (OSHA), State of Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and local agencies, such as county health and city buildingdepartments. However, not every aspect of asbestos management is regulated by every agency. And there may be aspects of asbestos management than may be regulated by more than one governmental agency.

The Montana DEQ Asbestos Control Program (ACP) oversees the permitting of asbestos abatement projects, the accreditation of asbestos-related occupations, and provides compliance assistance to the regulated community and interested parties. The ACP is also delegated by the EPA to administer the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), 40 CFR Part 61 Subpart A, and the National Emission Standard for Asbestos, 40 CFR Part 61 Subpart M).

Asbestos is a name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals including its fibrous forms: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, actinolite, and tremolite. The word asbestos is derived from the Greek language meaning inextinguishable. It has been mined and added to many building products.

People who work around or disturb asbestos are at risk for developing asbestos-associated diseases. The occupational groups at the greatest risks for developing asbestos-associated diseases include: janitors, maintenance personnel, construction workers, insulators, plumbers, mechanics, telephone workers, electrical workers, fire fighters, and asbestos abatement workers. People who work, live, or attend school in buildings containing asbestos products are also considered at risk for developing asbestos-associated diseases.

When asbestos or materials containing asbestos are damaged or disturbed, fibers are released into the air. Airborne asbestos fibers are small, odorless, and tasteless. They range in size from .1 to 10 microns in length (a human hair is about 50 microns in diameter). Because asbestos fibers are small and light, they can be suspended in the air for long periods. People whose work brings them into contact with asbestos may inhale fibers. The amount of asbestos a person is exposed to will vary according to several factors including: the fiber concentration in the air, the duration of exposure, the person's breathing rate, the weather conditions; and whether or not protective equipment is worn.

Asbestos has been so widely used in the United States that the entire population has been exposed to some degree. Air, beverages, drinking water, food, drugs, dental preparations, and a variety of consumer products all may contain small amounts of asbestos. In addition, asbestos fibers are released into the environment from outcrops of bedrock in the earth. Asbestos-containing rocks release fibers as a result of wind, water and chemical erosion.

If you breathe asbestos fibers into your lungs, some of the fibers will be deposited in the air passages and on the cells that make up your lungs. Most fibers are removed from your lungs by being carried away or coughed up in a layer of mucus to the throat, where they are swallowed into the stomach. This usually takes place within a few hours. Fibers that are deposited in the deepest parts of the lung are removed more slowly. In fact, some fibers may move through your lungs and can remain in place for many years and may never be removed from your body.

If you swallow asbestos fibers (either those present in water or those that are moved to your throat from your lungs), nearly all of the fibers pass along your intestines within a few days and are excreted in the feces. A small number of fibers may penetrate into cells that line your stomach or intestines, and a few penetrate all the way through and get into your blood. If you get asbestos fibers on your skin, very few of these fibers, if any, pass through the skin into your body.

Once inhaled, the small asbestos fibers can penetrate the body's defenses. Because inhaled asbestos fibers remain in the body, each exposure increases the likelihood of developing one or more of the following diseases:

  • Asbestosis: A chronic lung ailment caused by the build up of scar tissue inside the lungs. Asbestosis can cause shortness of breath, permanent lung damage, and increases the risk of lung infections. Asbestosis is not usually of concern to people exposed to low levels of asbestos.
  • Mesothelioma: An asbestos caused cancer of the chest cavity lining or abdominal cavity. These diseases do not develop immediately following exposure to asbestos, but appear only after a number of years. Members of the public who are exposed to lower levels of asbestos may also have increased chances of getting cancer, but the risks are usually small and are difficult to measure directly.
  • Other cancers: Cancer of the lung, esophagus, stomach, colon, and pancreas. There is also some evidence from studies of workers that breathing asbestos can increase the chances of getting cancer in other locations but this is less certain.

The levels of asbestos in air that lead to lung disease depend on several factors. The most important of these are (1) how long you were exposed, (2) how long it has been since your exposure started, and (3) whether you smoked cigarettes. Cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure increase your chances of getting lung cancer. Also, there is a scientific debate concerning the differences in the extent of disease caused by different fiber types and sizes.

There are currently no means of detecting exposure-related effects from commonly encountered environmental exposures. Low levels of asbestos fibers are found in nearly all people. Higher-than-average levels can show that you have been exposed to asbestos, but it is not yet possible to use the results of this test to estimate how much asbestos you have been exposed to, or to predict whether you are likely to suffer any health effects.

If a person has received sustained exposure to asbestos, a chest x-ray is commonly used. A chest x-ray is recommended for detecting exposure to asbestos only in persons who have sustained relatively heavy exposure. A chest x-ray is of no value for detecting evidence of asbestos exposure in a person whose exposure to asbestos has been only brief or transient. The x-ray cannot detect the asbestos fibers themselves, but it can detect early signs of lung disease caused by asbestos.

The most reliable test to determine if you have been exposed to asbestos is the detection of microscopic asbestos fibers in pieces of lung tissue removed by surgery, but this is a very invasive test. Asbestos fibers can also be detected in mucus, urine, or feces, but these tests are not reliable for determining how much asbestos may be in your lungs.

Asbestos has been used in a variety of materials and applications for purposes of reinforcement, heat and cold insulation, condensation control, friction, fire protection, sound dampening, decoration, texturing, chemical resistance, and other applications. Asbestos was used in over 3500 types of materials. Some materials, such as vermiculite might be contaminated with asbestos naturally. Materials which contain more than 1% asbestos are called asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Typically, asbestos is found in thermal system insulation such as pipe and boiler insulation, surfacing material such as fireproofing and wallboard, and miscellaneous materials such as floor and ceiling tiles. In America, asbestos was used in a variety of materials from the late 1800s to the present; however, its use has declined. Contrary to popular belief, asbestos is not banned from certain products in America. Certain materials such as floor tile, cement asbestos, adhesives, roofing products, clutch and brake assemblies, etc., might contain asbestos. Prior to purchasing products or materials determine whether asbestos is present. ACMs are currently being used widely in developing and industrializing countries. For more information on the asbestos ban and phase out, log into

You may have run across the terms friable and non-friable ACMs. Asbestos regulations define friability as the ability of a dry ACM to be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure. Examples of friable asbestos include thermal system insulation and spray-on fireproofing. ACMs such as floor tile, roofing, cement asbestos products, and gaskets are typically non-friable. Be aware that demolition and renovation activities can render non-friable ACM friable, and thus, regulated. Contact the ACP for more information.

Asbestos is a health concern because it is a carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer and other illnesses. Asbestos can break down into very small fibers that can become airborne and stay airborne for a long time. Exposure generally occurs by inhalation or ingestion. Asbestos causes asbestos-related illnesses such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural plagues, and lung cancer. Asbestosis is an illness characterized by the scarring of the lungs that reduces the lungs' ability to function. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the membrane lining the chest or abdominal cavity specifically related to asbestos. Lung cancer and other diseases have been linked to asbestos exposure. Epidemiological studies (studies of people and diseases) document asbestos-related illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos in many occupations including mining, milling, manufacturing, insulating, shipbuilding, construction, and others.

Cases of asbestos-related illnesses have also been documented in persons exposed to asbestos indirectly in non-occupational settings. Wives, husbands, and children of people who worked with asbestos have contracted asbestos-related illnesses after being exposed to asbestos on the clothes of those people.

Generally, a latency period of 10 to 30 years accompanies asbestos exposure before an asbestos-related illness develops. This latency period is dependent on other factors in a person's life, including whether the affected person smokes or smoked. According to research statistics, a smoker who is exposed to asbestos is over 50-90 times more likely to develop an asbestos-related illness than a non-smoker. The reason why smokers are so susceptible to asbestos is due to the loss of the lungs' capability to rid itself of fibers.

If you have any questions concerning asbestos, feel free to contact the ACP at 444-5300.

Asbestos Regulations for Public/Commercial Building Owners and Contractors

This topic discusses some of the asbestos regulations that relate to public and commercial building owners and contractors. It also provides some options in dealing with ACMs. Please note various asbestos regulations apply to each asbestos situation. Asbestos regulations that apply to public and commercial buildings differ slightly from those that apply to schools, residential dwellings, and other buildings. The intent of asbestos regulations is to prevent asbestos releases and exposures. Contact the ACP, EPA, or OSHA for more information.

In Montana, activities involving asbestos in buildings are governed by one or more regulatory authorities, i.e. State of Montana DEQ, Federal EPA, and OSHA; in many cases jurisdictions and regulations overlap.

The DEQ ACP regulates and permits asbestos abatement projects, accredits asbestos-related occupations, approves and audits asbestos training course providers, provides compliance assistance, and administers certain sections of the EPA's NESHAP regulation. The ACP regulates asbestos abatement activities involving three (3) or more square or linear feet of regulated ACM. Asbestos abatement activities must be permitted through the ACP and must be conducted by accredited asbestos personnel following proper asbestos inspection, abatement, transportation, and disposal procedures. Generally speaking, the ACP regulates asbestos projects, building demolition, and building renovation activities that occur in facilities such as any institutional, commercial, public, industrial, or residential structure, installation, or building (including any structure, installation, or building excluding residential buildings having four or fewer dwelling units).

Most of the asbestos activity in Montana involves building renovation and demolition activities. In order to determine which requirements apply to a building owner or contractor of a renovation or demolition, an asbestos inspection is required. An asbestos inspection not only locates, quantifies, and assesses the condition of asbestos, it also provides information as to whether an ACM is regulated and regulated by which authority. According to EPA and ACP regulations, an asbestos inspector accredited, or licensed, by the ACP must perform the asbestos inspection. Typically, samples of suspect ACMs are collected by the inspector for laboratory analysis. Sample analytical costs range from $15-30/sample. ACP regulations require sample analysis be done by a laboratory approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In some cases it can be assumed a material contains asbestos, saving an owner some money. The ACP maintains a list of accredited and approved asbestos inspectors and laboratories available for your reference. Contact them for specific inspection information.

In a demolition or renovation where ACM is identified by the asbestos inspection, the regulated ACM would need to be removed by an accredited asbestos project contractor following proper asbestos removal procedures under an asbestos project permit issued by the ACP. The building owner or asbestos project contractor would apply for the permit using a form available from the ACP called the Application for a Montana Asbestos Project Permit and NESHAP Demolition/Renovation Notification. A permit fee based on the asbestos project contract volume would apply. A ten (10) working day notification period would also apply.

In a demolition where ACM will be left in place and not be impacted by the demolition activities or no regulated ACM is identified by the asbestos inspection, the owner or demolition contractor must notify the ACP of the demolition using the same form as above. No fee applies to demolition notifications where ACM left in place will not be impacted by the demolition activities or no regulated ACM is identified; however, a ten (10) day demolition notification period applies.

In a renovation where no ACM is present, as identified by the asbestos inspection, no notification to the ACP is required.

Even though the Department is delegated by EPA to administer the NESHAP in Montana, EPA is also active in Montana regulating asbestos in private and public kindergarten through 12th grade schools, Native American Nations, and other buildings. Montana is part of EPA's Region VIII along with North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. EPA's Asbestos Hotline can be reached at (800) 368-5888.

Another asbestos authority is Federal OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). OSHA regulates worker safety and health as they relate to asbestos in the general and construction industries. Prior to initiating construction activities, OSHA's asbestos standard (29 CFR 1926.1101) also requires an asbestos inspection as part of its hazard communication requirement. For more complete information on OSHA's regulatory requirements, contact OSHA at (800) 321-6742, or in Billings at (406) 247-7494.

City or county governments such as local building permitting offices or local environmental health or sanitarian offices may also have asbestos requirements, contact them before initiating demolition or renovation work. City or county governments issue building permits for general renovation/demolition activities; however, don't be tricked assuming that their permit will satisfy the ACP's asbestos inspection, project permit, and demolition/renovation notification requirements.

One last asbestos authority is the landfill. Prior to initiating asbestos work, contact your local landfill and learn about their asbestos disposal requirements. In many cases landfills do not accept ACM and the last place you want to learn that is at a landfill's gate. According to State of Montana Refuse Disposal Rules and the ACP, regulated asbestos-containing waste must be disposed of in a State-approved Class II landfill.

At this point you may be scratching your head over asbestos regulations; however, rest assured that regulations exist to prevent asbestos exposure; they also may assist in limiting certain liabilities. As an owner of a public/commercial building that may contain asbestos, you have a number of options.

  • Armed with an asbestos inspection telling you where ACM is located, one option is to leave the ACM in place. If you do not have plans to renovate or demolish your building, the option of leaving the ACM in place is economical. Providing the ACM is in good condition, not causing exposures, and not prone to damage, the ACM can be left in place, managed, and monitored periodically for damage.
  • A second option is to encapsulate the ACM. Encapsulation involves treating the ACM with a substance that surrounds or embeds asbestos fibers. There are commercially available encapsulants and mastics specifically manufactured for such applications.
  • Another option is enclosure. Enclosure involves installing an airtight, impermeable, and permanent barrier around the ACM to prevent the release of asbestos.
  • Removal is another option involving the physical removal of the material. Removal may be the only option in building demolitions or renovations.

Encapsulation, enclosure, and removal fall into the definition of an asbestos project. In Montana, asbestos abatement actions include encapsulation, enclosure, removal, repair, renovation, placement in new construction, demolition, transportation, and disposal of friable or potentially friable asbestos containing material. Asbestos-related activities involving three (3) or more square or linear feet of ACM must be permitted through the ACP. As mentioned earlier, only accredited asbestos personnel following proper abatement, transportation, and disposal procedures can perform asbestos-related activities. The ACP has lists of accredited asbestos personnel available through its website.

Asbestos regulations and abatement options can be confusing; however, we at the ACP are available to discuss your asbestos issues. So before you demolish, renovate, or deal with asbestos, contact us for compliance assistance at (406) 444-5300.

There are two options to obtain your initial accreditation in Montana:

  • First:
    • Use our online service at You will need to create an Montana eGov account and you must have a valid E-mail address. Upon approval of your application, a temporary certification card will be sent via your E-mail address.
  • Second:
    • First-time In-State Applicants, submit:
      • A completed Montana Accreditation Application Asbestos Related Occupations
      • Copy of your initial course certificate from an EPA- or Montana-approved course provider and copies of any refresher course certificates
      • The appropriate fee. (See Section A of the Application and instructions for fee and additional determination)
    • First-time Out-of-State Applicants, submit:
      • A completed Montana Accreditation Application Asbestos Related Occupations
      • Copy of your initial course certificate from an EPA- or Montana-approved course provider
      • Copy of your refresher course certificate from an EPA- or Montana-approved course provider
      • Copy of your current out-of-state accreditation
      • The appropriate fee. (See Section B of the Application and instructions for fee and additional determination)

Submit the above items to the ACP at the address listed on the second page of the application.

There are two options to renewal your Montana Accreditation

  • First:
    • Use our online service at You will need your MTA and PIN numbers and a valid E-mail address. Upon approval of your application, a temporary certification card will be sent via your E-mail address.
  • Second:
    • A completed Montana Accreditation Application Asbestos Related Occupations application;
    • Copy of your refresher course certificate from an EPA- or Montana-approved course provider and copies of any refresher course certificates; and
    • The appropriate fee. (See Section A of the Application and instructions for fee and additional determination)

Submit the above items to the ACP at the address listed on the second page of the application.

To find currently-accredited Montana inspectors who have agreed to release their information to the public, click on the Current Accreditations, enter a city if you want a specific city (please note that you will obtain a broader response by leaving city blank), select Inspector from the Accreditation Type drop down list, and click submit. Please remember that this list displays only currently Montana-accredited Asbestos Inspectors who have agreed to release their information to the public.

Live Link: Current Accreditations