Carnegie Mellon University

Asbestos Management Program

Asbestos materials can be found in many older buildings throughout CMUs campus—for construction of new buildings, no asbestos is used, therefore these areas can be deemed asbestos free. For those older buildings, asbestos was used for various applications, from floor tiling to pipe insulation to plaster.

The Asbestos Management Program has been developed to address maintenance and handling of such asbestos materials in CMU-owned buildings to ensure the safety of our staff, faculty, students, and visitors from asbestos-related hazards.

It is important to know that asbestos materials only present potential health concern when they are disturbed or become damaged and thereby release asbestos fibers into the air. If asbestos materials are maintained in good condition and handled correctly when removed or physically impacted, no asbestos exposure hazards should exist.

Commonly Asked Questions

  • Asbestos is a class of naturally occurring minerals that have been used historically in a variety of building construction materials for their strength, heat resistance, and insulation properties. There are three main categories of asbestos materials, which includes:

Asbestos containing material (ACM): these materials contain greater-than one percent (>1%) asbestos.

Trace asbestos containing material (TACM): these materials contain less-than or equal-to one percent (≤1%) asbestos.

Presumed asbestos containing material (PACM): these are materials are located in buildings constructed on or before 1980. They are assumed to be ACM until proven otherwise by sampling. This includes materials such as, fireproofing, plaster, pipe insulation, and textured ceiling plaster. 

  • ACM production and usage was partially banned by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1989 under the Toxic Substance and Control Act (TSCA). Banned materials include, amongst others, spray-on fireproofing and other spray-on surfacing materials, and pipe insulation. Some materials that have not been banned for production and use include resilient floor tile, cement piping, gaskets, roof coatings, etc.
  • More information on asbestos, its health hazards, federal bans, etc. can be found on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website at
  • Resilient flooring—sizes can vary, but asbestos is most often found in 9”x9” tiles
  • Ceiling tiles and panels
  • Pipe and ductwork insulation
  • Traditional, plaster walls and ceilings
  • Spray-on fireproofing generally found on structural building components
  • Acoustical plaster
  • Mastic (glue) from associated carpeting and cove base
  • Cove base
  • Drywall
  • Drywall joint compound
  • Wire/cable coverings
  • Gaskets
  • Laboratory benchtops
  • Transite (cementitious) panels commonly found in laboratory fume hoods
  • Window caulking
  • Window glazing
  • Roofing materials
  • Fire doors
  • Fire curtains
  • Expansion joints typically part of ductwork and mechanical systems
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is generally only able to conduct asbestos assessments for maintenance and renovation work that is small in size and scope or  simple in complexity. Work that is mid-to-large in size and scope or is complex will typically require assessment by an approved third-party asbestos building inspector. EHS will determine on a case-by-case basis when third-party assessment is necessary, which will be based on EHS availability to sample and the work’s overall size, scope, and complexity. Exceptions for emergencies may apply. See Commonly Asked Questions for associated costs.
  • There has been no comprehensive assessment identifying all asbestos materials throughout CMU-owned buildings. With many suspect asbestos materials being located behind walls and underneath carpeting, it would be an invasive task to conduct sampling and could potentially put space occupants at greater asbestos exposure risk than if the materials were left in place, undisturbed and in good condition.
  • Most buildings have been at least partially surveyed as a required part of ongoing renovation and maintenance work. In turn, this provides a good indication of what asbestos materials might be present in a building and where they are located.
  • Newly constructed buildings, such as the Tepper Quad, Scott Hall and Hillman-Gates, were not made with any asbestos materials. Likewise, all renovation and maintenance activities, whether performed by CMU or third-party contractors, are completed with materials that do not contain asbestos in any amount.
Thorough asbestos assessments are required by several regulatory bodies, including the Allegheny County Health Department, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the US Environmental Protection Agency, before most renovation/maintenance work may begin. If work is performed on asbestos materials without first taking the appropriate precautions, workers and space occupants are put at risk of asbestos exposure.
Confirmation of the presence or absence of asbestos materials is required prior to most renovation, maintenance, demolition, and other work activities that will disturb suspect asbestos building materials. If there isn’t adequate documentation confirming the presence or absence of asbestos materials for a given location, as determined by EHS or approved asbestos building inspector, and the work is occurring in a “yellow” or “red” building, an asbestos assessment must be performed. The assessment must be based on the planned scope of work, including underneath carpeting and above drop-panel ceilings if these areas will be impacted. Attempts should be made to determine if asbestos materials are behind immoveable barriers, such as walls, when necessary.
  • Asbestos materials do not present health hazards in their intact forms; they do, however, present potential health hazards once they are physically disturbed thereby allowing asbestos fibers to be released into the air. The potential for asbestos materials to release breathable fibers largely depends on their degree of friability—meaning that the more easily a material can be crumbled by hand pressure, the more likely it is to emit fibers. Fireproofing and pipe insulation are examples of materials that are oftentimes considered friable.
  • By inhaling airborne asbestos fibers, a person increases their risk of developing respiratory diseases, such as asbestosis, and cancers, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. Disease onset is slow and symptoms can take upwards of 20 years or more to appear after initial exposure. The risk of developing lung disease or cancer from asbestos fiber exposure is related to the frequency, duration, and concentration of exposure to the airborne fibers and is additionally exacerbated by smoking.
  • Asbestos materials can be found in many older buildings throughout CMUs campus—for construction of new buildings, no asbestos is used, therefore these areas can be deemed asbestos free. For those older buildings, asbestos was used for various applications, from floor tiling to pipe insulation to plaster. A large portion of publically accessible ACM has been removed. However, there are some exceptions, such as:
    1. 9”x9” floor tiling found throughout most of Hunt Library
    2. Acoustical plaster applied to the first-floor ceiling of Margaret Morrison and Carnegie Hall (MMCH)
    3. Trace asbestos-containing plasters in MMCH, College of Fine Arts building, Baker and Porter Halls, and Doherty Hall
  • Most other asbestos materials are located within mechanical spaces, underneath carpeting, behind walls, and above ceilings, which means they are mostly inaccessible.
  • Some materials must be presumed to be asbestos containing based on age of application and material make-up. Such materials are known as presumed asbestos containing materials (PACM) and include all surfacing materials and thermal systems insulation found in buildings constructed on or before 1980.
  • Contact EHS using the webform or by requesting information for your specific spaces via
  • You may also view the Asbestos Location Summary, which provides general asbestos location information. It is important to understand that this listing is not exhaustive of all asbestos materials on campus.
The space owner should be contacted for questions or concerns with materials within leased spaces or spaces otherwise not owned by CMU.

The cost of asbestos assessment and bulk sampling will be covered by EHS and/or FMCS in the following situations:

  • Sampling activities that are conducted by EHS or FMCS.
  • Small work activities, such as hanging a shelf or photo.
  • Small-to-moderate sized renovations overseen by FMCS, such as flooring replacement.
  • Small-to-moderate sized cabling installation as overseen by Computing Services.
  • Emergency bulk sampling due to damaged materials.
  • Bulk sampling requested by space occupants due to a reported concern.

The customer for which work is being completed will be responsible for the cost of bulk sampling in the following situations:  

  • Bulk sampling performed by a third party for moderate-to-large sized or complex renovations and projects, whether overseen by FMCS, Housing, CDFD, etc.

The above-listed situations do not cover the cost of asbestos abatement, which will come at the cost of the customer. 

  • For any instance where asbestos is accidentally disturbed or found in damaged condition, the Accidental Fiber Release Procedure should be followed.
  • There are currently no medical evaluations that can be administered after a person was accidentally exposed to asbestos fibers to confirm if they were over-exposed or if they will experience future health effects. As such, it is crucial that detailed records are maintained with regard to the potential exposure as identified in the Accidental Fiber Release Procedure.
  • Employees who were potentially exposed to airborne asbestos fibers must complete a Supervisors’ Injury and Illness Report and submit to Human Resources for their recordkeeping and maintenance.
  • Students who were potentially exposed to airborne asbestos fibers must complete the relevant sections of the Supervisor’s Injury and Illness Report and submit it to EHS at