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Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rocks, and it is virtually indestructible fiber with excellent thermal/heat-retardant qualities. The three types of asbestos fibers that are commonly used are Amosite, Crocidolite, and Chrysotile. Because of its strength and thermal qualities, asbestos fibers are used as a binder and fire retardant in many building products, including acoustical ceiling tiles; thermal insulation of boilers and pipes; steel fireproofing; asbestos cement boards, and pipes (often referred to as Transite); cement asbestos siding and roofing; tile and sheet floor coverings; textiles such as curtains, aprons and gloves.

Asbestos fibers are a health threat when inhaled. The microscopic fibers can become lodged in the respiratory system and lead to asbestosis or scarring of the respiratory tissues. Asbestos containing materials (ACM) are considered hazardous when they are friable. Friable simply means that the material is fragile and can release asbestos fibers into the air. Because of the health risk associated with asbestos, its use in building materials was banned in 1978. Other products that may contain asbestos are:


  • Brake shoes and pads
  • Clutch facings
  • Body fillers
  • Mufflers
  • Transmissions components
  • Undercoating
  • Gaskets


  • Hair dryers
  • Electric blankets
  • Popcorn Poppers
  • Toasters
  • Gaskets

Cement Asbestos

  • Shingles
  • Piping
  • Sheets


  • Cable and wire insulation.
  • Motor components
  • Burner components

Building Materials

  • Acoustical tile
  • Wallboard
  • Shingles
  • Siding
  • Roofing felts and tiles


  • Rock wool
  • Oven
  • Dishwasher
  • Heating pipe
  • Boilers
  • Furnaces
  • Ductwork


  • Ironing board covers
  • Laboratory aprons
  • Auditorium or movie curtains
  • Fire hoses; protective suits and gloves
  • Fire Blankets
  • Welding hoods

Coatings, paints, sealants, etc.

  • Asphalt
  • Drilling fluids
  • Tile adhesives
  • Plaster and stucco
  • Caulking, patching, buffing and polishing compounds


  • Kilns
  • Blackboards
  • Candlesticks
  • Phonograph records
  • Fire doors
  • Baking sheets
  • Ash trays
  • Ammunition
  • Outdoor movie screens
  • Beverage filters
  • Light bulbs and sockets
  • Marine caulk
  • Thermal heat shields
  • Acetylene cylinders
  • Fume hoods
  • Laboratory table tops

The most common types of friable asbestos that inspectors are concerned with are sheet insulation used as a fire barrier around heating plants in older buildings, pipe insulation on older hydronic boilers, and insulation on older ductwork.

Sprayed-on ceiling asbestos – This was common in the 1960s and earlier. This material can be very hazardous. The popcorn ceilings on the west coast, mostly in California, are typically made from an asbestos-containing material. The popcorn ceilings in the Midwest and on the East coast typically do not contain asbestos.

Removal of asbestos – Asbestos should be removed and disposed of by a qualified contractor. Most states maintain lists of qualified contractors. Contact the EPA or the state department of environmental protection for an updated list of qualified testing and or mitigation contractors. It is not recommended that homeowners remove the asbestos themselves due to the associated health risk. Subsequent to any remediation, an air test should be performed to ensure that no fibers remain.