Asbestos inspections continue at Yokota
August 26, 2003
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Officials have begun routine asbestos inspections of 400 of Yokota’s garden and tower housing units.
The basewide assessments, which began Aug. 11, are part of attempts to speed planned remodeling, and part of a continuing effort to reduce potential exposure to asbestos, according to a 374th Civil Engineer Squadron memo distributed to occupants. The surveys are to end Sept. 26.
“This is being done in accordance with Japan environmental governing standards — roughly equivalent to EPA standards,” Capt. Michael Braibish, a Yokota spokesman, said Friday, referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “It’s a national environmental standard.”
Most housing units are undergoing visual inspections, which take 20 to 30 minutes, Braibish added, but some have been selected randomly for more extensive sampling. That procedure lasts about three hours.
Residents are getting about a week’s notice before the inspection teams arrive, he said.
If a different suspect material is discovered in units during the visual checkups, a return visit will be scheduled to obtain a sample, the memo said.
“This gives the base a good inventory of the buildings that contain nonfriable asbestos,” said Braibish. “In turn, it helps us in planning future renovations and remodeling projects.”
Nonfriable asbestos can be found in many types of building and insulation materials, including pipes, ducts, tiles and ceilings, according to a brochure being distributed by the Yokota Housing Office. As opposed to friable asbestos — in crumbling, loose or powdered form — nonfriable asbestos poses no danger to residents unless disturbed. Even then, the brochure said, significant health risks are incurred only after 20 or more years’ exposure.
Medical studies have shown that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers, a hazard of friable asbestos, can increase the chances of lung cancer; mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity; and asbestosis, in which fibrous tissue scars the lungs.