When Is An Asbestos Survey Required?

You could save yourself hundreds, even thousands of dollars by getting this right.

True or False: 

Since the United States banned the use of asbestos in building materials in 1989, any commercial building constructed after that date poses no asbestos risk. Therefore, you do not need to worry about having an asbestos survey done prior to renovating buildings in the past 30 years – Right?


The myth that “asbestos is no longer used” potentially exposes commercial property owners to fines of $25,000 per day when they unknowingly disturb materials that contain asbestos.

Falling for the lie that “Newer buildings” are automatically in the clear is not a defense in the eyes of the state.

Should You Get an Asbestos Survey Done, or Not?

Commercial building owners will usually take one of the following three paths when doing renovation work that requires the disturbance of building materials.

They try to save time and money by continuing to act as if newer buildings do not require an asbestos survey.  In reality, the financial, legal, and health risks involved with this choice are not even remotely justified.

They proceed under the assumption that asbestos is definitely present. This is the most expensive method, but it can get the work underway quicker and protect you from fines and litigation. You will still need to let the proper governing bodies of your intentions to renovate.

They hire a licensed environmental consultant to conduct an asbestos survey of the site prior to beginning the project. In this case, the goal is not necessarily to find asbestos, but to try and prove that asbestos is not present.  If the survey results do not find any asbestos, the owner can proceed with the project without fear of legal action.

My aim here is to explain why asbestos is still a major concern and convince you to take the laws and regulations regarding commercial building renovation seriously.

If you are considering a renovation project of a commercial building, having an asbestos survey is usually the first step you should take.

Why Are Asbestos Surveys Required?

Studies linking lung cancer to asbestos exposure gained widespread public attention in the 1970’s and led to a series of regulations addressing the danger. The 1989 Asbestos Band and Phase-Out Rule by the EPA signaled the end of asbestos-containing projects in the United States.

They were banned completely.

Unfortunately, one the matter seemed settled, the nation’s attention to the matter dwindled and the landmark 1991 decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down major parts of the EPA’s rule barely made the news.

Consequently, many of the materials used to construct your building may still contain asbestos, regardless of its age.

These items are just a handful of the materials that we might suspect contain asbestos:

  • Pipe Insulation and Wraps
  • Roofing felt and Roof Coatings
  • Vinyl Floor Tile
  • Popcorn Ceiling Texture
  • Cement Board

This is not a complete list, there are many other possibilities.

My hope is that you understand how serious the situation is both from a health and a financial standpoint, and follow the laws and regulations the next time a project in your building requires a disturbance of construction materials.

Again, the 1991 decision basically made the 1989 asbestos ban irrelevant in many ways.  There is still plenty of room for concern about asbestos in a commercial building.  Therefore, the smartest place to start is almost always with an asbestos survey.

Depending on the project type and size, an asbestos survey can usually be completed quickly and inexpensively. The procedure will identify any suspected asbestos-containing materials (ACM) present or potentially clear the site as free of ACMs.

What Can Happen If I Do Not Get an Asbestos Survey?

Bad things can happen if you don’t get the required survey prior to disturbing the materials that may contain asbestos.

Failing to get an asbestos survey before you begin your renovations puts you at risk of very large fines, business disruption, a tarnished reputation, civil litigation, or even possibly criminal prosecution.  In one of the legal cases on record, the owner of a commercial property pled guilty to charges related to the illegal release of asbestos during renovations of an apartment complex after failing to get an asbestos survey done before the work was done. He received an 8-month prison sentence and a $100,000 fine.  The firm also had to pay for medical assistance for those who were exposed to the asbestos.

It may seem like an inconvenience and an added expense to have a survey done, but it is nothing compared to those penalties.

How and When to Schedule an Asbestos Survey

Licensed asbestos survey consultants are a phone call away.  If you are in Texas or surrounding states, call North American Analytical Labs at (325) 672-4777.

There is too much at stake to ignore the possibility that ACMs are present in your commercial structure, even if it was built this year.

Get the word out to every commercial building owner you know:

Asbestos is still in use, and it can still cause damage to your health, your finances, your company, and your reputation.

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