What is Asbestos? Are Fibers Lurking in Your Home? What Abatement and Removal Advice is Best for Homeowners?

Below is an image of Anthophyllite Asbestos fibers which illustrates the fine needle-like structure of the potentially deadly particles.

These tiny fibers often can only be seen and identified using special Asbestos microscopes and a highly trained eye.

Asbestos fibers are like durable mineral needles, and if inhaled, they can travel deeply into your lungs where they pierce and severely irritate tissues within the Respiratory System.


Tissue damage and scarring following Asbestos exposure may eventually result in deadly diseases such as Mesothelioma, Asbestosis, or Lung Cancer. This page will help protect you and your family from possible indoor Asbestos hazards.


Here I will help you understand more about Asbestos Fibers: what it is, its health effects, where it might be in your home, and what to do about it if it is.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber. It can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope.

There are several types of asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a generic name given to six fibrous minerals that have been used in commercial products. The six types of asbestos are chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite asbestos, tremolite asbestos, and actinolite asbestos.

Several properties that make asbestos so versatile and cost effective are high tensile strength, chemical and thermal stability, high flexibility, low electrical conductivity, and large surface area.

The leading domestic markets are roofing products, gaskets, and friction products.

Nearly all of the asbestos produced worldwide is chrysotile.

In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.

Even if asbestos is in your home, this isusually NOT a serious problem. The mere presence of asbestos in a home or abuilding is not hazardous. The danger is that asbestos materials may becomedamaged over time. Damaged asbestos may release asbestos fibers and become a very serious health hazard.


Disturbing it may create a health hazardwhere none existed before. Please read this entire page before you have any asbestosmaterial inspected, removed, or repaired.

Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found In The Home

  1. Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement.
  2. Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation.
  3. Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.
  4. Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.
  5. Older products such as stove-top pads may have some asbestos compounds.
  6. Walls and floors around woodburning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets.
  7. Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.
  8. Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
  9. Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.
  10. Vermiculite Insulation mined in Libby Montana prior to 1990 and branded as Zonolite Attic Insulation may contain significant amounts of Asbestos.

How Can Asbestos Affect My Health?


One of the most important facts about the hazards of Asbestos is that almost all of the cases of Asbestos-related Lung Cancer occurred among people who smoked cigarettes AND were exposed to Asbestos.

In fact, smoking not only adds to the risk of Asbestos-related lung cancer, it multiplies it. A similar multiplier effect is also seen in those who smoke and are also exposed to higher levels of Radon Gas (the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.)

Because of some interaction in the body, people who are exposed to Asbestos and also cigarette smoke have an increased risk of Lung Cancer 50 to 90 times greater than people who do not smoke cigarettes and are not exposed to Asbestos.

This link between increased risk of Lung Cancer from Asbestos exposure and cigarette smoke exposure is just one more good reason never to smoke.

From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of:

  • lung cancer:
    -- mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity; and
    -- asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.

The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.

Where Can I Find Asbestos And When Can It Be A Problem?

Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:

  • STEAM PIPES, BOILERS, and FURNACE DUCTS insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly.
  • RESILIENT FLOOR TILES (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber), the backing on VINYL SHEET FLOORING, and ADHESIVES used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers. So may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal.
  • CEMENT SHEET, MILLBOARD, and PAPER used as insulation around furnaces and woodburning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers. So may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation.
  • DOOR GASKETS in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use.
  • SOUNDPROOFING OR DECORATIVE MATERIAL sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly, or water-damaged material may release fibers. So will sanding, drilling, or scraping the material.
  • PATCHING AND JOINT COMPOUNDS for walls and ceilings, and TEXTURED PAINTS. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos.
  • ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOFING, SHINGLES, and SIDING. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled, or cut.
  • ARTIFICIAL ASHES AND EMBERS sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces. Also, other older household products such as FIREPROOF GLOVES, STOVE-TOP PADS, IRONING BOARD COVERS, and certain HAIRDRYERS.

What Should Be Done About Asbestos In The Home?

If you think asbestos may be in your home, don't panic! Usually the best thing is to LEAVE asbestos material that is in good condition ALONE.

Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. THERE IS NO DANGER unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs.

Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don't touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing, or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow.

Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads, or ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental, or other appropriate officials to find out proper handling and disposal procedures.

If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.

How To Identify Materials That Contain Asbestos

You can't tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled.

If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional.

A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released.

In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended.

If you nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled.

Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling, and at a minimum, should observe the following procedures:

  • Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is done.
  • Wear disposable gloves or wash hands after sampling.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the spread of any released fibers.
  • Do not disturb the material any more than is needed to take a small sample.
  • Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be sampled.
  • Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent before taking the sample. The water/detergent mist will reduce the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material using, for example, a small knife, corer, or other sharp object. Place the small piece into a clean container (for example, a 35 mm film canister, small glass or plastic vial, or high quality resealable plastic bag).
  • Tightly seal the container after the sample is in it.
  • Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local procedures.
  • Label the container with an identification number and clearly state when and where the sample was taken.
  • Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release.
  • Send the sample to an EPA-approved laboratory for analysis. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has a list of these laboratories. You can get this list from the Laboratory Accreditation Administration, NIST, Gaithersburg, MD 20899 (telephone 301-975-4016). Your state or local health department may also be able to help.

How To Manage An Asbestos Problem

If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal.

REPAIR usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material.

Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace, and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely.

Covering(enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket.

With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make later removal of asbestos, if necessary, more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor.

Asbestos Do's And Don'ts For The Homeowner

  • Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos.
  • Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos material.
  • Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by asbestos professionals.
  • Don't dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
  • Don't saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos materials.
  • Don't use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on a dry floor.
  • Don't sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing, install new floorcovering over it, if possible.
  • Don't track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area, or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.

Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos.

Minor repairs should also be done by professionals since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.

Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed. If you nevertheless choose to do minor repairs, you should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before doing anything. Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for information about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school district may also have information about asbestos professionals and training programs for school buildings. Even if you have completed a training program, do not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs, carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a general matter, any damaged area which is bigger than the size of your hand is not a minor repair.

Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the precautions described earlier for sampling asbestos material. Always wet the asbestos material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas are available. Small areas of material such as pipe insulation can be covered by wrapping a special fabric, such as rewettable glass cloth, around it. These products are available from stores (listed in the telephone directory under Safety Equipment and Clothing") which specialize in asbestos materials and safety items.

REMOVAL is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.

Asbestos Professionals: Who AreThey And What Can They Do?

Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos.

Asbestos professionals can conduct home inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and advise about what corrections are needed and who is qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors repair or remove asbestos materials.

Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment, and correction. A professional hired to assess the need for corrective action should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm. It is better to use two different firms so there is no conflict of interest. Services vary from one area to another around the country.

The federal government has training courses for asbestos professionals around the country. Some state and local governments also have or require training or certification courses. Ask asbestos professionals to document their completion of federal or state-approved training. Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved training. State and local health departments or EPA regional offices may have listings of licensed professionals in your area.

If you have a problem that requires the services of asbestos professionals, check their credentials carefully. Hire professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable, and accredited - especially if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a professional, ask for references from previous clients. Find out if they were satisfied. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations. Get cost estimates from several professionals, as the charges for these services can vary.

Though private homes are usually not covered by the asbestos regulations that apply to schools and public buildings, professionals should still use procedures described during federal or state-approved training. Homeowners should be alert to the chance of misleading claims by asbestos consultants and contractors. There have been reports of firms incorrectly claiming that asbestos materials in homes must be replaced. In other cases, firms have encouraged unnecessary removals or performed them improperly. Unnecessary removals are a waste of money. Improper removals may actually increase the health risks to you and your family. To guard against this, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are needed to do the job properly.

In addition to general asbestos contractors, you may select a roofing, flooring, or plumbing contractor trained to handle asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, flooring, siding, or asbestos-cement pipe that is part of a water system. Normally, roofing and flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements because they do not perform any other asbestos-correction work. Call 1-800-USA-ROOF for names of qualified roofing contractors in your area. (Illinois residents call 708-318-6722.) For information on asbestos in floors, read "Recommended Work Procedures for Resilient Floor Covers." You can write for a copy from the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, 966 Hungerford Drive, Suite 12-B, Rockville, MD 20850. Enclose a stamped, business-size, self-addressed envelope.

Asbestos-containing automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings, and gaskets should be repaired and replaced only by a professional using special protective equipment. Many of these products are now available without asbestos. For more information, read "Guidance for Preventing Asbestos Disease Among Auto Mechanics," available from regional EPA offices.

If You Hire A ProfessionalAsbestos Inspector

  • Make sure that the inspection will include a complete visual examination and the careful collection and lab analysis of samples. If asbestos is present, the inspector should provide a written evaluation describing its location and extent of damage, and give recommendations for correction or prevention.
  • Make sure an inspecting firm makes frequent site visits if it is hired to assure that a contractor follows proper procedures and requirements. The inspector may recommend and perform checks after the correction to assure the area has been properly cleaned.

If You Hire A Corrective-Action Asbestos Contractor

  • Check with your local air pollution control board, the local agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau. Ask if the firm has had any safety violations. Find out if there are legal actions filed against it.
  • Insist that the contractor use the proper equipment to do the job. The workers must wear approved respirators, gloves, and other protective clothing.
  • Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state, and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures). Contact your state and local health departments, EPA's regional office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regional office to find out what the regulations are. Be sure the contractor follows local asbestos removal and disposal laws. At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.
  • Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home. They should seal the work area from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and duct tape, and also turn off the heating and air conditioning system. For some repairs, such as pipe insulation removal, plastic glove bags may be adequate. They must be sealed with tape and properly disposed of when the job is complete.
  • Make sure the work site is clearly marked as a hazard area. Do not allow household members and pets into the area until work is completed.
  • Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer that creates a fine mist before removal. Wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.
  • Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into small pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air. Pipe insulation was usually installed in preformed blocks and should be removed in complete pieces.
  • Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges, or HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used. Wetting helps reduce the chance of spreading asbestos fibers in the air. All asbestos materials and disposable equipment and clothing used in the job must be placed in sealed, leakproof, and labeled plastic bags. The work site should be visually free of dust and debris. Air monitoring (to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air) may be necessary to assure that the contractor's job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor.


Do not dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These steps will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove dust by wet mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors.

For more information

Contact your local American Lung Association 

For more information on asbestos in other consumer products, call the CPSC Hotline or write to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC 20207. The CPSC Hotline has information on certain appliances and products, such as the brands and models of hair dryers that contain asbestos. Call CPSC at 1-800-638-CPSC. A teletypewriter (TTY) for the hearing impaired is available at 1-800-638-8270. The Maryland TTY number is 1-800-492-8104.

To find out whether your state has a training and certification program for asbestos removal contractors, and for information on EPA's asbestos programs, call the EPA at 202-554-1404.

For more information on asbestos identification and control activities, contact the Asbestos Coordinator in the EPA Regional Office for your region, or your state or local health department.

Prepared By the American Lung Association,(The Christmas Seal People),
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and
The Environmental Protection Agency


Statement by the American Lung Association: The Statements in this brochure are based in part upon the results of a workshop concerning asbestos in the home which was sponsored by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Lung Association (ALA). The sponsors believe that this brochure provides an accurate summary of useful information discussed at the workshop and obtained from other sources. However, ALA did not develop the underlying information used to create the brochure and does not warrant the accuracy and completeness of such information. ALA emphasizes that asbestos should not be handled, sampled, removed or repaired by anyone other than a qualified professional.

CANCER HAZARD! CPSC Warns About Asbestos in Consumer Products: Safety Alert

The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns consumers about thehazard of exposure to consumer products containing asbestos.These products include:

  • Asbestos paper and millboard

  • Asbestos-cement sheet

  • Dry-mix asbestos furnace or boiler cement

  • Asbestos wood/coal stove door gaskets

  • Asbestos laboratory gloves and pads

  • Asbestos stove mats and iron rests

  • Central hot-air furnace duct connectors containing asbestos

  • Bulk asbestos fibers

Some of these products still are for sale or may be in consumers'homes. Handling these products may release asbestos fibers;breathing asbestos fibers is known to cause cancer. The risk ofasbestos-related cancer may be substantially higher among smokersat the levels of asbestos encountered in homes. If these productsmust be handled:

  • Wear a respirator approved for use with asbestos.

  • Do not dry sweep; use wet procedures for clean-up. Dispose ofany residue or unused material along with the clean-up materialsin a manner that will not release airborne fibers. To getinformation on how to dispose of asbestos, call the EnvironmentalProtection Agency (800-368-5888) and ask for your regionalasbestos coordinator.

  • Do not use power operated or other tools to cut or drillbecause this can create respirable dust levels.

  • Keep these products out of the reach of children.

The extent of current asbestos product labeling is limited.Except for products which are sold unwrapped, such as millboard;and asbestos-cement sheet, all products are labeled with the nameof the manufacturer or distributor. Only asbestos paperand furnace cement are labeled as containing asbestos.Non-asbestos substitutes for all asbestos products are widelyavailable to the public for household uses.

CPSC requires that the labeling requirements of the FederalHazardous Substances Act apply to asbestos products. Asbestosproducts not labeled according to these provisions will beconsidered misbranded, and thus will be subject to enforcementaction by the Commission.


Asbestos in the Home

United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10
1200 Sixth Avenue, Seattle, WA 96101
April 1990


The aim of this page is to respond to some frequently asked questions about asbestos and to provide information to help the homeowner make informed decisions about its care and maintenance.

Asbestos is the name for a group of naturally occurring minerals that separate into strong, very fine fibers. The fibers are heat-resistant and extremely durable, and, because of these qualities, asbestos has become very useful in construction and industry. In the home it may or may not pose a health hazard to the occupants, depending on its condition. When it can be crushed by hand pressure or the surface is not sealed, to prevent small pieces from escaping, the material is considered FRIABLE. In this condition fibers can be released and pose a health risk. However, as long as the surface is stable and well-sealed against the release of its fibers and not damaged, the material is considered safe until damaged in some way.


Asbestos tends to break down into a dust of microscopic size fibers. Because of their size and shape, these tiny fibers remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and can easily penetrate body tissues after being inhaled or ingested. Because of their durability, these fibers can remain in the body for many years and thereby become the cause of asbestos related diseases.

Symptoms of these diseases generally do not appear for 10 to 30 years after the exposure. Therefore, long before its effects are detectable, asbestos related injury to the body may have already occurred. There is no safe level of exposure known, therefore exposure to friable asbestos should be avoided.


Descriptions given in this booklet may help in identifying asbestos-containing materials. People who frequently work with this material, such as plumbers, contractors, and heating specialists, can often correctly guess whether a material contains asbestos. However, the only way to be sure is to have a sample of the suspect material analyzed by a laboratory. Do not rely on visual determinations. It is prudent to treat material which could contain asbestos as if it does, until and unless reliable analysis proves otherwise. Laboratories that do this work are usually listed in the telephone yellow pages as "LABORATORIES-ANALYTICAL".

Remember, the asbestos fibers that would cause health problems are much too small to be seen without a powerful microscope. In fact, an average human hair is approximately 1200 times thicker than an asbestos fiber.

It is important that you not release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself when taking samples. Only you should be in the room when sampling is accomplished.

To take a sample of the friable material:

  • A light wetting of the material using a fine water mist prior to taking the sample will reduce the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Do not disturb the material any more than is required to take a small sample.
  • Penetrate the depth of the dampened material with a clean sample container (35mm film canister or small glass or plastic vial).
  • After the sample is in the container - tightly seal it.
  • Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or spilled onto the floor.
  • Label the container - the label should contain an identification number and clearly indicate when and where the sample was taken.
  • Send the sample to a laboratory for analysis. Laboratory analysis can be expensive, ranging from $20 to $40 per sample.
  • A sample should be taken for each different appearing suspect material. For a ceiling surface in a large room, two samples may be required to give an accurate determination of asbestos content.


As noted under the section headed "WHERE ASBESTOS MIGHT BE FOUND IN YOUR HOME" and subsequent pages of this booklet, asbestos may be present in many products and materials about the home. This normally presents no problem as long as the asbestos is in good condition and is not disturbed or misused. When it becomes necessary to repair an item containing asbestos, when it is necessary to remove asbestos-containing material such as ceiling finish or pipe insulation, or when something has damaged asbestos-containing material such as pipe and boiler insulation, a professional in the asbestos field should be called. The professional should have special training, such as that required by many states for asbestos worker certification. He/she should have special equipment, such as vacuum machines with very fine filters. These filters are known as "HEPA" filters, which stands for HIGH EFFICIENCY PARTICULATE AIR and are designed to filter out the asbestos fibers. (Household and shop vacuum cleaners, for example, which are not specifically designed for asbestos will only scatter the fibers throughout the house, making the situation worse). Such training and equipment are expensive and not usually practical for homeowners.

In spite of the fact that it is unwise to do so, the homeowner in most localities is not prohibited by law from repairing or even removing the asbestos-containing material in his/her home. There are times when, due to accident, lack of information, or other reasons, a homeowner attempts to deal personally with an asbestos problem. Therefore, the next few pages of the booklet are dedicated to giving the homeowner as much information as possible to help him/her minimize the risk of asbestos exposure in the home.


Pipe, furnace, and boiler insulation: when the insulation material will move at the touch of the hand or the cover no longer feels firm and tight, the insulation is probably too deteriorated for repair. For material in this condition, call a professional. Repair by the homeowner should only be attempted, if at all, where the insulation is firm and the cover tight, and there should be a minimum of holes or tears in the insulation (for example, no more than a one inch diameter opening in four lineal feet of pipe covering).

For minor damaged areas such as this, you can obtain commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas in asbestos pipe insulation. These products area available from safety stores1 Suppliers listed in the yellow pages of the telephone directory under the heading "Safety Equipment and Clothing" are referred to in this booklet as "safety stores.", which specialize in asbestos repair materials and safety items.

Sprayed-on asbestos-containing material on walls and ceilings should not be disturbed in any way by the homeowner. If the material has never been painted, a coat of penetrating or bridging encapsulant2 Encapsulants are materials normally applied in liquid form to provide a seal against the release of asbestos fibers. Bridging encapsulants such as paint and similar materials form a "skin" on the surface to contain the fibers. Penetrating encapsulants are thin liquids which soak in and set hard like a plastic, making a homogenous non-friable mass. can be sprayed on with an airless sprayer to seal the surface to ensure no fibers are released (don't use a brush or roller). Penetrating encapsulants soak into the material and firmly adhere it to the wall or ceiling. However, it makes any future removal more difficult. Bridging encapsulants are applied like paint and the resultant skin seals the surface and does nothing to make the sprayed on asbestos adhere better to the wall or ceiling. A light coat of latex base paint may be used as a bridging encapsulant and may be used even if the material has previously had an encapsulant applied to it. Keep in mind that you should not build up such a thick coat that the added weight will increase the chance that the treated material may fall off the wall or ceiling.


Removal should not be attempted by the homeowner, but left to professionals. This action requires special equipment and detailed training which would generally be too expensive and time-consuming for a homeowner to acquire for a one-time job. Removal is also the last choice among alternatives because it poses the most risk of fiber release if not done properly.


The professional asbestos contractor will normally use glove bags for pipe insulation removal unless a complete plastic sheeting enclosure is necessary for some reason. (For example, removal of a boiler jacket in the same room as the piping would require an enclosure in the room and glove bags would then be unnecessary.)

A glove bag is a heavy plastic bag measuring approximately four feet wide by five feet deep, with an open top and two plastic sleeves with gloves attached to one side. In use, the top is taped around the pipe and a HEPA vacuum used to assure asbestos fibers do not leak out. The worker inserts his/her arms into the sleeves and is thus able to make repairs to the insulation while that area of the pipe is completely sealed within the bag. After repair is complete, (the air in the bag is exhausted with a HEPA vacuum as it is unsealed from the pipe) the bag is carefully sealed with tape as it is removed from the pipe. This prevents leakage of the air, which contains asbestos fibers, into the room.


The professional asbestos contractor will build an enclosure of two layers of plastic on the floor and the walls and three leaf doors of 6-mil plastic for access. Some negative pressure air machines will be used to control air flow and insure against fibers traveling throughout the home.


The professional asbestos contractor will have a HEPA vacuum, a negative pressure air machine, approved respirators, disposable clothing, and a supply of glove bags and miscellaneous tools for the asbestos removal and the cleaning of the room. Provision also will be made for taking air samples to insure that the area is clean after completion of the work.


In choosing a professional to do work with asbestos, keep in mind that most home repair or remodeling contractors do not have certification or certified workers nor are they equipped to work with asbestos safely. If you hire someone who is not qualified, not only have you potentially subjected yourself and your family to serious health dangers, but also there can be legal problems because of local, state, or federal laws regarding environmental protection and workers' health. If the contractors do not have the right equipment and expertise and do the work improperly, they will spread asbestos fibers throughout your home and the neighborhood. They may create an asbestos hazard where none existed or make an existing friable situation worse. You should require references from the contractor's former customers before you make an agreement for removal.

In addition, find out from the Better Business Bureau or a local environmental or worker safety agency if they have received complaints about or found violations of regulations by the prospective firm. In some areas, an asbestos contractors' association provides a referral service, which may also be useful to you. Remember, as the owner of the property, you are responsible for the safe disposal at an approved landfill, even if you have hired someone to do the work for you.


If the release appears significant (for example, 4 or 5 square feet of sprayed-on ceiling material or 1 to 2 feet of pipe insulation), close off the portion of the house, such as a bedroom or the basement, in which the problem has occurred, so that people will not be exposed. Close off air ducts and vents, shut windows, and tape bottoms of doors to prevent drafts. Contact someone who is trained in asbestos problems, such as a local health authority or a qualified contractor.

You will probably want to have samples of dust or debris from floors, shelves, or window sills taken and analyzed by a laboratory. Air samples may also be needed to define the situation; if so, they must be taken and analyzed by a laboratory or a contractor who has the proper training and equipment, but the samples must be analyzed by a laboratory. Ask for prices for this work before selecting a laboratory to do it. Analysis of material (bulk samples) and air samples will provide the information needed to decide what further measures may be required.


Depending upon the amount of asbestos-containing material present, you may be required to notify authorities in your area before you remodel, dismantle, or demolish your home or part of it. They will want to know what work is intended and your proposed method of asbestos removal and disposal. The law also requires that "no visible emissions" of dust are allowed during removal, transportation, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.

Further and more detailed information concerning this aspect of homeowner responsibility is available in the EPA "Purple Book". See Page 11 of this booklet for information on obtaining this and other publications regarding asbestos.


All asbestos waste and the disposable clothing, filters, equipment, and building materials which are not to be cleaned and reused must be disposed of as asbestos waste. The material must be in double 6-mil plastic bags, labelled as asbestos, hauled to an approved asbestos landfill in a covered vehicle, and disposed of according to EPA, state, and local regulations. The contractor or homeowner should contact the health department or air pollution control agency in the area where the asbestos removal is to take place to determine local notification, removal, and disposal requirements and sites.

  1. Place all dampened filters, cloths, mopheads and other asbestos wastes into a transparent (6-mil) plastic bag. Seal the bag with heavy duty tape. Place the first bag into a second bag.
  2. If the bags are not already preprinted, label the bags with a sign: "DANGER; CONTAINS ASBESTOS FIBERS, AVOID CREATING DUST, CANCER AND LUNG DISEASE HAZARD". The sign should be placed between the two transparent plastic bags. Seal the second bag with heavy duty tape.
  3. Place the sealed and labeled bags with other solid waste material for pick-up and delivery to an approved waste disposal site. Asbestos waste materials should be disposed of according to Federal and local regulations.



Exterior walls and closed decks were sometimes built with a fire retardant sheeting in the form of asbestos paper. If it looks like a thick gray cardboard, it may contain asbestos. If left undisturbed and in good condition, the undersheeting is considered safe. However, if you are taking out a wall for expansion and remodeling, or if you are replacing siding and shingles, you could release many fibers in the process of drilling, sawing, and removing. Hire professionals for removing this paper.

Cement asbestos board (commonly referred to as CAB) has been used in houses as sheets for straight and lap siding and has been cut and shaped as a substitute for wood shingles for roofs and exterior walls. The material is hard and brittle, normally light gray in color, was pre-drilled for fastening, and often was factory primed and painted. Since this material is mainly outside the home, and the asbestos is bound in a hard material, it presents little hazard, unless altered by drilling, sawing, or sanding. When CAB becomes worn or damaged, spray paint it to ensure sealing in the fibers. If you must remove CAB be very careful to wet the material and cut or pull the nails so that damage or breakage of the CAB is minimized.


Brake pads and linings, clutch facings and various gaskets often contain asbestos, particularly in older cars. When it is time to replace these parts, consider substituting non-asbestos materials which are available for some clutch facings, gaskets, and brake materials. As asbestos clutch facing, brake shoe, and brake pad materials wear down in normal automobile use, asbestos-containing dust in the form of tiny fibers is created and released to the outside environment. Much of this material is entrapped within the clutch space or brake housing, ready to be released in concentrated form when repair and replacement work is done. This concentration of fibers is especially dangerous for the home mechanic who does such work without proper safety equipment and awareness. This situation is made worse if the work is done within an enclosed space, such as a garage. The house and surrounding environment can be further contaminated by using compressed air, or vacuuming the brake residue with a shop or home vacuum cleaner. Do not use compressed air or vacuums.

Ideally, work on clutches and brakes should only be done by professionals where specialized vacuum and protective equipment is available and where the mechanic is properly trained. Refer to the EPA literature listed at the back of this brochure for further information about this work.


Loose blown-in and batt insulation infrequently have been known to contain asbestos, especially in homes built or remodeled between 1930 and 1950. This material was used for thermal insulation and can be found where interior rooms and spaces need to be protected from outside temperatures. These areas include outside walls and floor or roof/attic spaces between structural joists and rafters. This asbestos presents a hazard only if renovation and repair work disturbs it. If you plan such a project and find asbestos-containing materials, be sure certified and/or qualified contractors/workers are consulted and hired so you do not spread asbestos fibers throughout your home and the environment.


Sheet vinyl (including the backing or underlayment), vinyl tile, and vinyl adhesive may all contain asbestos. In these products, asbestos fibers were added to the basic materials to give them strength and durability. These products are considered safe unless the flooring is altered or damaged. Damage could occur as a result of prolonged or excessive abrasion. Breaking, sawing, cutting, grinding, and sanding will release asbestos fibers into the environment. When replacement or repair becomes necessary, these flooring products should be handled as little as possible and disposed of in an approved manner

"In an approved manner" refers to legal procedures for asbestos disposal applicable to the jurisdiction in which the house is located. Contact local health or air pollution control authorities to determine requirements for proper disposal of asbestos containing material and products.. Be sure not to power grind or sand down the flooring, the remaining adhesive or adhesive backing.

If you need to replace floor covering, sometimes the best solution is to lay the new floor directly over the old one. However, you should keep in mind that this asbestos-containing material remains in your house, and must eventually be dealt with if and when you remodel or demolish. Notifying future buyers of its hidden existence may be required in your locality.


Insulation blankets (the outside covering or shell), door gaskets, duct insulation, and tape at duct connections of furnaces and boilers all may contain asbestos. It was used as the best material available, during its time, as high-temperature insulation. Oil, coal, or wood furnaces with asbestos-containing insulation and cement are generally found in older homes, its installation dating between 1930 and 1972. The material is white or grey in color and resembles the plaster used in casts to protect broken bones. If your furnace insulation is in good condition, it is best to leave it alone and keep maintaining it in good condition. If the insulation is in poor condition (friable), or pieces are breaking off or it has been subject to water damage, you should have it repaired or removed entirely. You may want to have the entire furnace replaced by a more modern efficient model. You should first find out if the insulation actually contains asbestos by sampling and analysis. While the insulation is in poor condition and awaiting repair or removal, children should be prevented from playing in or near the space to protect them and prevent further insulation damage.

Steam and hot water pipes were insulated with asbestos-containing material, particularly at elbows, tees, and valves. Its appearance is similar to that found on boilers. Pipes may also be wrapped in an asbestos "blanket", or asbestos paper (which looks very much like corrugated cardboard). Asbestos-containing insulation has also been used on and inside round and rectangular furnace ducts. Sometimes the duct itself may be made of asbestos-containing materials.

If you have moderately damaged insulation around pipes or boilers, the best current recommendation is to leave the insulation in place and have the protective covering repaired.

Asbestos-containing cement sheets (CAB), millboard, and paper have been used frequently as thermal insulation to protect the floor and walls around wood burning stoves. Again, there is no hazard if left as is, if it is in good condition.


Sprayed-on or trowelled-on surface material on wall and ceiling surfaces of some homes may be composed of asbestos-containing materials. If the surface material is firmly attached, has a hard surface, and has no water damage, it should not be hazardous. If the surface can produce powder or dust by hand pressure, it is advisable to seek professional advice before deciding what further course of action to take. You may choose to send a sample to a lab for analysis; and for this option you should follow sampling guidance described earlier in this booklet.

You should not try to do either repair or removal of this material yourself. There's too much danger you will expose yourself and your family to heavy concentrations of asbestos fibers. Contact a contractor whose workers are specifically trained to remove this type of material without contaminating people or the environment.


Materials in older lamp socket collars, electric switch and receptacle boxes, liners for recessed lighting, backing for switchboard panels, fuse boxes, and old-fashioned "knob & tube" wiring have all, at times, been found to contain asbestos. Normal use of these items should not pose a hazard. Replacement products in these categories do not contain asbestos. Dispose of these items, when they are replaced, in an approved manner.


Oven & dishwasher (in cabinet) units were often wrapped in asbestos-containing insulation blankets or sheets until the mid-1970s. Homeowners should not disturb these materials since they do not pose a hazard if left in place. Removal or repair should be done by professionals, and the materials or the entire unit should be discarded in an approved manner.


Portable dishwashers, toasters, clothes driers, popcorn poppers, broilers, electric blankets, slow cookers, and similar small appliances all have had parts made with asbestos-containing materials, which could give off fibers when the appliance is being disassembled for repair. The use of asbestos in these appliances is declining and newer items may have none. Consider discarding these items in an approved manner instead of repairing them. Some older hair driers and portable heaters, where the coil-wrapping and insulation contain asbestos, may still be in use. These driers and heaters should be discarded. Manufacturers voluntarily recalled hair driers containing asbestos in 1979, since laboratory tests of these hair driers showed that asbestos fibers were being released during their use. Some older models of freezers and water heaters may have asbestos in the insulating blanket within the metal cover. These should not pose a hazard in normal use. Discard in an approved manner. In general, when asbestos is used in appliances, it is in parts which will probably not result in the release of asbestos fibers during use, with the exception of hair driers and portable heaters where air currents pass over the material. It is unlikely that other asbestos components in these appliances present a significant health risk, unless dismantled.


Older gas-fired decorative fireplace logs and artificial ashes may have a considerable amount of asbestos fibers and, if disposed of, should be handled in the same manner as other asbestos materials. Asbestos-containing gloves, stove-top trivets, and pads that are still being used should also be discarded.


Asbestos is only dangerous when it's deteriorated to the point where its tiny fibers can be released into the air and inhaled. If the material is solid (in appearance and to touch) and maintained in good condition, it presents no problem.

If the asbestos-containing material in your home has become deteriorated for some reason, there's a good chance you can solve the problem without removal. Removal is generally the last resort, because it involves disturbing the material and sending more fibers into the air.

Related Asbestos Pages

Don't miss our Massive collection of Asbestos facts and resources in our Asbestos MSDS Guide which contains valuable information answering the following questions about Asbestos:

1.1 What is asbestos?
1.2 What happens to asbestos when it enters the environment?
1.3 How might I be exposed to asbestos?
1.4 How can asbestos enter and leave my body?
1.5 How can asbestos affect my health?
1.6 How can asbestos affect children?
1.7 How can families reduce the risk of exposure to asbestos?
1.8 Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to asbestos?
1.9 What recommendations has the federal government made to protect human health?
1.10 Where can I get more information?
1.11 Complete Asbestos MSDS Information - EVERYTHING you could ever want to know about Asbestos past, present, or future!

There is also a section on Asbestos in our extensive Household Chemical Guide - where you will find information on over 100 other household chemical and product hazards. This is one of the largest guides to household chemical and product hazards on the internet today! Tons more info. being added regularly.

Learn why your lungs are so succeptable to damage by asbestos.

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