En Español

Asbestos is a natural mineral. It is made up of fibers, is very durable, and is extremely heat-resistant.

Where is asbestos found?

  • building materials such as fireproofing products, pipe and boiler insulation, roofing materials, ceiling and floor tiles, and asbestos cement products
  • automobile brakes and clutches, and other friction products
  • heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant fabrics and materials.

Although the use of asbestos has greatly decreased since the 1970's, it is still present in many older products and materials

How are people exposed to asbestos?

People are exposed by breathing in very small asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers can be released into the air when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed. Asbestos-containing materials that are intact pose little risk for exposure.

What are the health effects of exposure?

Breathing in asbestos fibers over many years may result in serious diseases, such as lung cancer, digestive tract cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer in the lining of the lungs or abdomen), and/or asbestosis (lung scarring).

Typically, asbestos has no immediate health effects. It is not known to cause allergies or skin problems.

Who is most at risk?

  • Workers who have been exposed to asbestos for many years are most at risk for asbestos-related illnesses. Construction, insulation, and shipyard workers who have installed, disturbed or removed asbestos without proper protection are especially at risk.
  • Smokers who are exposed to asbestos have a much greater risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.
  • Developing an asbestos-related illness after being exposed for a short time - even at high levels - is very unlikely.

Can a medical test show if I have been exposed to asbestos?

  • There are no routine medical tests to show that exposure has occurred.
  • Chest x-rays and lung function tests can detect lung damage once it has developed. Disease caused by asbestos may not be detected for 30-40 years after exposure.

How is asbestos identified in the environment?

  • Trained environmental inspectors can test materials for asbestos content and measure asbestos levels in the air.
  • Testing the air or materials for asbestos may be useful in identifying potential exposures and evaluating the effectiveness of proper asbestos removal and cleanup.

What do I do if I have asbestos in my home?

  • If you have asbestos insulation on pipes, boilers or furnaces in your home, it is important to maintain these materials in an intact condition. Intact and undisturbed materials do not release fibers.
  • If you're not sure that the insulation contains asbestos, you can hire an environmental inspector to test the material.
  • You should hire only trained and licensed workers to remove, repair, or clean up asbestos containing materials or do work that might disturb asbestos.

Are there government regulations to protect people from asbestos exposure?

  • The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has rules requiring proper removal and handling of asbestos containing materials in buildings. For a copy of these rules visit: here .
  • New York State regulates the training and licensing of asbestos abatement workers and firms.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency requires schools to identify and safely manage asbestos-containing materials.
  • The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers in the private sector to protect workers from asbestos exposure. In New York State, the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau requires the same protection for city, county and state workers.

How can I get more information or report a problem?

Call 311 for more information or to report a problem with asbestos.

More Resources