Consumer Product Safety Commission

Consumer Product Safety Commission
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Environmental Protection Agency
and the
American Lung Association (The Christmas Seal People)
Asbestos In The Home
CPSC Document #453
This booklet will help you understand asbestos: what it is, its health effects, where it is in your
home, and what to do about it.
Even if asbestos is in your home, this is usually NOT a serious problem. The mere presence of
asbestos in a home or a building is not hazardous. The danger is that asbestos materials may
become damaged over time. Damaged asbestos may release asbestos fibers and become a
health hazard.
IT ALONE! Disturbing it may create a health hazard where none existed before. Read this
booklet before you have any asbestos material 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
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.
This document may be reproduced without change, in whole or in part, without permission,
except for use as advertising material or product endorsement. Any such reproduction should
credit the American Lung Association, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The use of all or any part of this document in a deceptive
or inaccurate manner or for purposes of endorsing a particular product may be subject to
appropriate legal action.
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.
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. 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:
-- 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.
Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos.
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
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
Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is
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
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
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
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
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 asbestos analysis laboratory
accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory
Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National
Institute of Standards and technology (NIST). A
directory of NVLAP-accredited laboratories is
available on the NVLAP web site, 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
Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having
damaged material that may contain asbestos.
Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos
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
Don't saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos
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
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
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 Are They 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
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 stateapproved 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
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 Professional Asbestos 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 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
For more information
, contact your local American Lung Association at their
website at for copies of:
Indoor Air Pollution Fact Sheet - Asbestos
Air Pollution In Your Home?
Other publications on indoor pollution
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.
--Send the link for this page to a friend! Consumers can obtain this publication and additional
publication information from the Publications section of CPSC's web site or by sending your
publication request to [email protected]
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an individual or organization without permission. If it is reproduced, however, the Commission
would appreciate knowing how it is used. Write the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission,
Office of Information and Public Affairs, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814 or send
an e-mail via CPSc's On-Line Form.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from
unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products
under the agency's jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product
incidents cost the nation more than $800 billion annually. The CPSC is committed to protecting
consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard.
The CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools,
cigarette lighters, and household chemicals - contributed significantly to the decline in the rate of
deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.
To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772
or CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270, or visit CPSC's web site at
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