The General Services Administration will send an emergency work crew to the Naval Intelligence Command building in Suitland this week after a contractor remodeling a computer room pulled up a floor covering and found flaking asbestos particles.
GSA officials said work was halted immediately and the area sealed off to protect government employes and the contract workers remodeling the facility against any possible health hazard. Asbestos can cause respiratory diseases or lung cancer, and airborne particles of the sharp-fibered substance can cause asbestosis, a lung disease.
While GSA Public Buildings Commisioner Richard O. Haase said he did not believe that a serious asbestos problem exists in the nation's federal buildings, the agency's accident and safety office yesterday released a list of 35 buildings around the nation that have been given priority for asbestos-abatement procedures that include removing or completely covering the material.
Six buildings on that list are in this area, including the garage of the Bethesda Federal Building at 7550 Wisconsin Ave. It ranked seventh.
The other buildings are the Commerce Department headquarters at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, GSA's headquarters at 18th and E streets NW, a Food and Drug Administration building at Second and C streets SW, an Education Department building at 400 Maryland Ave. SW and a U.S. Navy Annex building near the Pentagon.
James G. Whitlock, GSA's regional public buildings commissioner, said there are "no critical problems" in any of these federal buildings, but added that emergency situations such as the one at Suitland must be dealt with promptly to prevent dangers to federal employes. Asbestos was used frequently as insulation in buildings during the 1950s and 1960s. Its use was discontinued in 1972.
Since drafting the list last November, GSA has been able to correct asbestos problems in only one building here--a GSA coal yard office at 42 I St. SE. This year GSA has $500,000 for scheduled and emergency work on asbestos.
"The measurements in all federal buildings are well below national standards," said Henry J. Singer, a GSA accident and safety division official. "The problem is the potential for danger at these buildings if the asbestos begins flaking." Asbestos becomes most dangerous, Singer said, when it is airborne.
For example, a $7.6 million renovation of the General Accounting Office at 441 G St. NW will include spending $450,000 over the next three years removing asbestos now concealed within false ceiling panels.
James A. Hawkins, GSA's regional accident branch chief, said there is no reason to "bother" encapsulated asbestos, but when renovation projects are begun it is often "smart to include money to take the stuff out."
Here are the most significant problems:
* Education building: spray-on acoustic ceilings with a 40 percent asbestos base in Room 1138 present a significant problem (score: 24 on a 1-to-100 scale).
* Commerce Department: insulation was flaking in the attic (score: 72). Since workmen have to walk the attic to service pipes, GSA said the asbestos should be sealed.
* Food and Drug Administration: sprayed-on ceiling insulation of 80 percent asbestos was severely flaking. GSA said the problem scored 27 in 1981 and 45 in 1982.
At GSA's own building, facility chief Pete Lee was surprised at the ranking. "You don't clean up what isn't a problem," Lee said. "In this building you don't have a problem of that sort unless you disturb the tile in the ceilings."
There was no report available on the Navy Annex. No money has been allocated for these projects.