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.
Most people 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.
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.
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.
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