The presence of asbestos may cause alarm, but it is only in one specific form that it poses health risks.
Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. It has been used in products, such as insulation for pipes, floor tiles, building materials, and in vehicle brakes and clutches, according to the United States of Department of Labor.
Fort Sill Department of Public Works (DPW) has a survey of buildings where asbestos is still located and Fort Sill residents are made aware if they are moving into one of the few remaining residences with asbestos.
Ann Cardenaz, Reynolds Army Health Clinic Industrial Hygiene chief, explained that its mere existence is not a danger to those around it.
“Unless you grind it, sand it, pulverize it, do something to break it up and make those fibers friable, it is not a risk,” said Cardenaz. “Friable means the particles are floating in the air and can travel down a person’s lungs.”
Traci Adamson, RAHC industrial hygienist, is one of two certified asbestos inspectors on Fort Sill who are called out when there is a concern.
“We go out as technical support and subject matter experts. DPW does the actual sampling which incorporates taking pictures, documenting where it was, its size, what [personal protective equipment] was worn by those taking the sample, and its chain of custody. That is sent to a certified independent laboratory for testing,” said Adamson.
“We have not seen issues on Fort Sill of asbestos that was ground or pulverized. If we even see anything that’s broken, we recommend mitigation,” Adamson added.
Cardenaz said some of the older post homes have vinyl composite tiles (VCT) in which asbestos was used in the mastic adhesive.
“You can have minimal breakage in the tile and that’s fine. You’re still safe. It’s only if you go in there with a sander or some kind of power tool to remove it that would make it friable.”
The other mitigation method for asbestos involves encapsulation.
“You’ll go into some of the older buildings in the basement where there’s HVAC ductwork and It looks like a plaster cast. They fully encapsulated any asbestos, so it’s not going to harm you,” said Cardenaz.
With recent flooding in the area, the concern of materials with asbestos being disturbed was raised. Cardenaz and Adamson said the presence of water would only make it less airborne and therefore safer.
“In some mitigation processes when it is friable, you have to do wet removal which means you use a wet vac because that dampens the fibers,” said Cardenaz.
She said all the resources are available to take care of actual health hazards. And when in doubt, have it checked by experts.
“I think anytime you look at something and you just want reassurance, feel free to reach out to Housing. We have a great relationship with them and we’re happy to come out and look. We’re here for workers and want to help military families as well,” said Adamson.
If a Fort Sill Soldier, Department of the Army civilian, or contractor has any concerns of asbestos, contact DPW at 580-442-3251. Fort Sill residents can submit a work order through the Residential Portal (https://sill.corviaspm.com/residents) or call the Maintenance Hotline at 844-947-4412.