Asbestos Frequently Asked Questions
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety
of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.
How can asbestos
affect my health?
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.
exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop 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
may have been made with asbestos include insulation, soundproofing, decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings, hot
water and steam pipes, and furnace ducts.
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, since material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless fibers
are released and inhaled into the lungs.
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.
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.
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.
For more information, see the EPA's Asbestos Information Resources.
The above information is provided as a public service by the Environmental Protection Agency for educational