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Portrait Gallery: Larry Collamer, asbestos inspector

Larry Collamer, asbestos inspectorLarry Collamer is asbestos coordinator with Risk Management Services. Away from campus, he spends time with family and heads for Port Aransas or the northeast.

What does an asbestos inspector do?

Prior to any renovation or demolition on campus, building materials need to be tested for asbestos. An asbestos inspector takes samples of materials and has them analyzed by an accredited lab and interprets the results. Then a maintenance permit is issued approving the work (No asbestos detected), disapproving the work (asbestos detected) or conditionally approving the work (an asbestos containing material is nearby but shouldn’t be disturbed by the work). Locations of asbestos containing samples are recorded and stored to create a database of knowledge for future renovations.

How were you trained/educated?

An asbestos inspector is required to obtain training from a state licensed training facility and pass an exam administered by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS). I am a licensed asbestos inspector, air monitoring technician, project manager and lead inspector. I got my bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a minor in chemistry from Providence College.

How did you get interested in risk management and environmental services?

A friend at church needed to expand his company. With my background in science and maintenance, he hired me and sent me to all of the asbestos and lead courses required by the State of Texas. I worked for him for five years.  I was air monitoring at a project in Willis Library and discovered UNT was hiring an asbestos inspector - the rest is history.

Where is asbestos found?  

Typically, buildings built after 1980 do not contain asbestos. Asbestos is usually found in floor tile/glue, fire proofing materials, wall texture, and pipe/boiler insulation and roofing materials on campus. It is important to understand that asbestos is only a hazard when it becomes friable (air born). When a material contains asbestos it is usually a small percentage of the total material - 2-5 percent. The asbestos is bound in the matrix of the material to make it stronger, like rebar in concrete. When it isn’t being disturbed there are no fibers being released. But when it becomes damaged from cutting or sanding it becomes a lung hazard.

Why is asbestos no longer used in construction?

Asbestos is a known carcinogen, which means it causes cancer. Mesothelioma is a cancer in the lining of organs that is directly associated to asbestos exposure. Other diseases associated with long term exposure to asbestos are asbestosis, or scarring of the lung tissue, and lung cancer, usually compounded by smoking. While asbestos is not used in general construction, it is not specifically banned. It is possible for new building materials to contain asbestos, especially joint compounds and materials imported from Canada or Mexico. It is necessary for us to test new construction for this reason.

What is involved in asbestos abatement?

Asbestos abatement is the process of removing asbestos from a building. It is a highly regulated process by the TDSHS and EPA. When an asbestos containing material needs to be disturbed, containment is built around the area. The containment is put under negative pressure, the materials are constantly wetted to reduce dust, and the air is filtered through industrial HEPA filters and then exhausted outside. The air is monitored for asbestos fibers inside and outside the containment to make sure there are no exposures. The asbestos materials are then disposed of in a special landfill as hazardous waste.

What do you do away from campus - family, hobbies, and favorite vacation spots?

I enjoy spending time with my wife and three adult children and one grandson. I enjoy spending time with my family at sporting events, going to Port Aransas. But my favorite destination is the Adirondacks in the fall or at Christmas to see the rest of my family. 

It's not possible to know everyone on a big, busy campus. So InHouse periodically publishes Portrait Gallery features to help us learn about our colleagues and their contributions to the university's success. Send suggestions for Portrait Gallery subjects by email to InHouse with "Portrait Gallery" in the subject line.)

Posted on: Tue 19 February 2013

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