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Frequently Asked Questions about Asbestos

General Information

Q.What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. It is mined and milled from rock and is thin and strong. Chrysotile (white asbestos), Amosite (brown asbestos), and Crocidolite (blue asbestos), are the most common types of asbestos used in manufacturing. Rarer forms are Tremolite, Anthophyllite, and Actinolite. When viewed under a microscope, Chrysotile fibers are pliable and cylindrical and are often arranged in bundles, whereas Amosite and Chrocidolite fibers appear to look like tiny needles.

Q.  Is one type of asbestos more dangerous than another?

There have been more cases of Mesothelioma and cancer found in people working with Crocidolite than any other type of asbestos.  However, all forms of asbestos, except Chrysotile, are of the same mineralogical family called Amphiboles.  Even though there appear to be fewer incidences of disease in workers who deal only with Chrysotile, all asbestos forms are believed to carry similar risks.

Q.  Where does asbestos come from?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and deposits of it can be found in most countries around the world.  Most asbestos comes from the former Soviet Union, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

Q.  How is asbestos mined?

Asbestos is mined from the ground usually by open-pit method. The raw material is very coarse and looks like old wood.  The raw material is processed and refined into fluffy fibers, then the fibers are added to some form of binding agent, like cement, to form an asbestos containing material.   

Q.  Why has asbestos been so widely used?

Asbestos appeals to manufactures and builders for a variety of reasons.  Asbestos is heat and chemical resistant, doesn’t corrode, and performs well in  insulating products.  These characteristics, when combined  with its  flexibility to be woven, has made asbestos useful in many industrial applications.  Few materials used for manufacturing, have all of these characteristics, making asbestos a popular choice for use in thermal, chemical, and fire-resistant applications. 

Q.  How many products contain asbestos?

It has been estimated that 3,000 different types of commercial products contain asbestos.  In homes built prior to 1978, asbestos is most commonly found as thermal insulation on boilers and pipes.  Unfortunately, it can also be found in many other household materials, which include:

  • Blown-in attic insulation
  • Vinyl floor tiles - usually 9" X 9" tiles contain asbestos, but all tile should be tested to be sure
  • Glue that attaches floor tiles to concrete or wood (also called "mastic")
  • Some forms of linoleum
  • Window caulking or glazing
  • Roofing materials
  • HVAC duct insulation (usually found in corrugated or flat paper form)
  • Siding material
  • Plaster
  • Fiber cement siding (usually 1/8” thick and 8’ X 4’, brittle)
  • Corrugated heavy duty panels

Q.  How long has asbestos been in use?

Asbestos was first used in the United States in the early 1900’s, to insulate steam engines but was not used extensively until the 40’s.  After World War II, and for the next thirty years, schools and other public buildings were built using asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACM). Primarily, ACM  was use as fireproofing, insulation, soundproofing and decoration.

Q.  How might I be exposed to asbestos fibers?

Asbestos can enter the environment from natural mineral deposits which have been exposed to the weather, and fiber releases arising from the application, disturbance and removal of asbestos-containing materials (ACM). Asbestos may be found in products such as floor tiles, roof shingles, exterior siding, cement, automotive brakes, acoustical and structural insulation, etc. Asbestos fibers can be released into the air when ACM becomes damaged.  If  friable ACM (material that can be crumbled by hand pressure) is disturbed and becomes airborne, an inhalation hazard may result.  Asbestos fibers in non-friable ACM (i.e. floor tiles, sidings, laboratory desktops, etc.) are so tightly bound in the material that they are in, that they do not easily release fibers.   However, if the material is abraded, sanded or sawed, the material can easily be rendered friable.


Q. What type of respiratory protection should be used when working with Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM)?

Primarily you need a respirator that is equipped with a High Efficiency Particulate (HEPA) filter.  These filters are magenta colored. There are various factors that determine the type of respirator you need. To learn more about the respirators and what would best suit your situation, visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's website.


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Health Effects

Q.  How do asbestos fibers enter the body?

Inhalation - Breathing air which has asbestos-containing fibers in it, is the primary route of damaging exposure.  Some of the asbestos fibers reaching the lungs are eliminated in exhaled air and others are coughed from the lungs with mucous. The fibers reaching the deepest air passages of the lungs can produce the greatest damage.

Ingestion - The digestive system can be exposed to asbestos fibers from drinking water and mucous cleared from the lungs. A small number of fibers may penetrate the cells that line the digestive system, but only a few will reach the bloodstream. These fibers will be released in the urine. 

Through the Skin - Asbestos fibers contacting the skin rarely pass through the skin into the body.

Q.  How can asbestos affect my health?

It is important to note that not everyone who is exposed to asbestos develops an asbestos-related disease.  Available information on the health effects related to asbestos exposure primarily  comes from long-term studies of people exposed to large quantities of asbestos in the workplace.

Asbestosis - Asbestos workers who breathe in asbestos fibers may develop a slow build-up of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis. This scarred tissue impairs the ability of the lungs and heart to adequately provide oxygen to the body. This is a serious disease and may take 20 to 30 years to develop after exposure.  Asbestosis can eventually lead to disability or death in people exposed to high amounts of asbestos.

Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma - Asbestos workers also have an increased chance of developing two types of cancer: lung cancer and mesothelioma. Lung cancer starts within the respiratory tissues and mesothelial cancer grows from the thin membranes that surround the lung or the abdominal cavities. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma are usually fatal. These asbestos-related diseases do not appear immediately, but may develop 20 to 50 years after exposure.

Pleural Plaques - All types of asbestos can cause a variety of non-malignant pleural conditions as well.  For reference, the pleura is the chest cavity or the place where the lungs sit.  A thickening of the pleura can occur which can impair lung function.  Pleural plaques (a gelatinous substance) can also occur, typically after about 15 years from being exposed to airborne asbestos fibers.

The health effects from oral asbestos exposures are unclear. In some areas where the residents are exposed to asbestos fibers in the drinking water, cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine may be a greater concern. After reviewing the scientific evidence from human experience and animal testing, however, health authorities are still unsure of asbestos links to cancer in the digestive system.

Q.  I’ve been feeling sickly and there is asbestos in my home/office, is the asbestos causing my illness?

The latency period for an asbestos-related disease is between 20 to 50 years after exposure, therefore, any immediate health symptoms you’re experiencing are probably related to something else.  You should contact a physician to discuss possible allergies or other health problems as well as an environmental inspection specialist to evaluate your home.  To locate a specialist, please refer to the Indoor Air Quality Related Links Page.

Q.  Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to asbestos fibers?

X-rays - The most common test used to determine if you have been exposed to asbestos is a chest x-ray.  Asbestos disease usually occurs long after initial exposure (20-50 years).  An X-ray cannot detect the asbestos fibers themselves, so it will not be helpful in determining if you were recently exposed to asbestos.  However, if exposure occurred 20 or more years ago, it can detect early signs of lung disease caused by asbestos exposure.

Pulmonary Function Test - Another test which can be conducted by a physician is a pulmonary function test.  This test is helpful in identifying lung capacity changes. Periodic health examinations by a physician, including a chest x-ray and review of asbestos-based risk factors, can be effective. Asbestos risk factors include levels, frequency, and length of asbestos exposures; period of time since exposures, and smoking history. The combined impact of cigarette smoking and fiber exposures can increase the chances of asbestos-related lung diseases substantially.

Q.  Does merely being exposed to asbestos guarantee health problems?

Health problems are usually related to the amount and length of time of exposure to asbestos.  The more prolonged and intense the exposure, the greater the risk of a health problem. 

Q.  What are some statistics on asbestos-related diseases?

Primarily, individuals who die of an asbestos-related disease have had a history of long-term occupational exposure.  For more information on the number of asbestos-related deaths as well as other asbestos-related statistics, please refer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services web page

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Asbestos Siding and Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles

Q.  What does “non-friable” mean?

Friable means that a material is able to be reduced to a powder by hand pressure.  Asbestos containing materials (ACM) that are friable have a much greater tendency to release fibers into the air.  Conversely, non-friable asbestos containing materials, because of their nature, do not easily release their fibers into the air.  This class of material must be mechanically impacted (power tools such as sanders, drills, chippers, saws, etc.) to release fibers.  ACM floors, mastics, and siding are classified as non-friable materials.

Q.  What type of floor tile may contain asbestos?

Asbestos has been used in most 9’ X 9’ tiles, some 12’ X 12’ tiles and in some of the mastics used to glue the floor tiles down. The only way to tell for sure if something contains asbestos is to have it analyzed by a laboratory accredited to do this type of analysis.  For more information on accredited laboratories, go to that topic on our Related Asbestos Links page.

Q.  I’m a contractor and I’ve heard that in NJ, if I want to remove asbestos floor tile or sheet vinyl flooring I don't need a NJ Asbestos Contractor’s license. Is that true?

Contractors must normally acquire a NJ Department of Labor and Workplace Development license to conduct this type of work, but there are provisions for an exemption from these regulations.  To learn more about the exemption process, you can link to the Compliance Assistance Project page or refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page for information on how to contact the DOH.

Q.  For exempted asbestos work, what is the approved method of removing asbestos-containing floor tile in NJ?

The DOH requires that contractors follow the Resilient Floor Covering Institute’s “Recommended Work Practices for the Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings” when removing vinyl asbestos floor tile.  To find out more information regarding the Department’s requirements, you can go to the  Compliance Assistance Project page or refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page for information on how to contact the DOH.

Q.  I have asbestos-containing siding, what should I do with it?

Asbestos-containing siding was commonly used as a building material.  Asbestos siding is durable and generally not as hazardous as asbestos pipe or boiler insulation.  Although some contractors insist on removing the siding before replacing it, there is no State requirement that the siding be removed before new siding is installed on the house.  As an alternative, you can either paint or side over it.  If you side over it, the new siding should be screwed in to avoid breakage of the asbestos-containing siding.  Should renovations require the disturbance of asbestos siding, precautions should be taken to ensure that there are no fibers released during the removal (see the next question).

Q.  What is the best way to remove asbestos-containing siding?

If it becomes necessary to remove the siding, it is recommended that it be removed with minimal breakage.  To do this it should not be hammered, sawn, or dropped. Siding should be removed in whole pieces and then carried or lowered to the disposal area (instead of letting it drop to the ground).  Siding will most likely break where it is fastened to the building, these areas should be moistened with water before attempting to remove the fasteners.  Often a type of pliers, called  “lineman’s pliers” can be used to cut off the heads of the nails.  Fasteners may also be cut by inserting a reciprocating saw behind the shingle and carefully cutting it without damaging the shingle.  The ground underneath the work area should be protected with heavy plastic (>= 6mil) in order to catch any debris that might inadvertently fall.  Debris should be carefully removed from the plastic at the end of every workday. In NJ it is not required that a NJ licensed asbestos contractor remove this type of material.  The only exception is if the building is to be demolished.  For more information on this subject, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page for information on how to contact the DOH.

Q.  How do I dispose of asbestos-containing siding?

If you have questions regarding the disposal of the siding once it is removed, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page for information on how to contact the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Asbestos in Brakes and Clutches

Q.  Do brakes and clutches still contain asbestos?

While most modern vehicles use asbestos-free parts, asbestos could still be present in brakes, clutches and gaskets of many older or imported vehicles. Asbestos is still widely used in some gaskets particularly where heat can be a problem (such as in engine heads and vehicle exhaust manifolds).

Anybody who works with brakes, clutches or replaces gaskets knows dust is always present. The dust from the normal wear and tear on brakes and clutches, which is generated when gaskets are removed, can be a serious health hazard if it contains asbestos fibers. If they become airborne,  asbestos fibers (which are too small to be seen) can linger around long after the job has been finished.  These fibers can be breathed into the lungs by anyone in the workplace.

Although a business may fit non-asbestos parts to vehicles, it cannot be sure that the parts removed from customers' vehicles do not contain asbestos. Common sense and good practice dictates that you play it safe by treating all brake linings, brake pads and gaskets as though they contain asbestos.

Q.  How do I protect myself when I work on brakes and clutches?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that where asbestos exposures cannot be eliminated, it must be controlled to the lowest level possible.  Effective containment and safe work practices are the best ways to control asbestos-containing dust generated from brakes and clutches.  Following are some suggestions to help control asbestos-containing dust:

  • Designate an area for all brake and clutch repairs.
  • Wear a properly fitted respirator with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter when conducting brake and clutch work (these filters are usually magenta in color). Simple dust masks do not filter out asbestos fibers.
  • Never use an air hose, dry brush, rag or ordinary shop-vac, which will stir up asbestos fibers.  Wet cleaning and vacuuming with a HEPA-equipped system is a safer alternative.
  • Any local exhaust system should be equipped with a HEPA filter.
  • Wetting parts before starting work helps to keep fibers and dust from becoming airborne. Use a hand or pump sprayer with a wetting agent (like detergent) to mist areas prior to beginning work.
  • Keep your work area clean. This will prevent any asbestos fibers from accumulating. Store or dispose of asbestos-containing parts safely.  Store new parts which could contain asbestos in the original container until use.  Contact the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for information on the proper disposal of asbestos waste.  For more information regarding these regulations, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page for information on how to call the DEP.
  • Avoid stirring up asbestos while using air tools to loosen lug nuts or removing tires.
  • Don’t smoke while working with clutches and brakes.
  • Wash your hands and face before you eat, drink or smoke. Never use the same rags used to clean brakes.
  • Eat, drink, and smoke only in an area free of asbestos dust.
  • Use separate work clothes and shoes/boots while at work.  Disposable coveralls are the best choice.
  • Keep your street clothes in a clean place separate from the work area.
  • Don’t wear your work clothes and shoes/boots home.  Talk to your employer about laundering your clothes at work.  Avoid taking asbestos-contaminated items home where the fibers can harm your family.
  • If possible, shower at work before going home.

For more information on this subject, visit the CDC website.


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Asbestos in NJ Schools

Q.  I’m afraid that there might be asbestos in my child’s school, how can I find out about it?

All schools are required to maintain asbestos management plans for each of its buildings.  These plans are required to include the type and location of any asbestos in the building, regular updates on the condition of the asbestos, and, if applicable, when it was abated (removed).  You should contact the Board office and request to see the plan for the school you are concerned about.  If you are unable to view these plans, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page for information on how to contact the DOH for assistance.

Q.  There are renovations going on at my child's school and I'm concerned they might be disturbing asbestos, what can I do about it?

Please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page for information on how to contact the DOH for assistance.

Q.  I'm a teacher and there are renovations going on at the school I work in. I'm concerned they might be disturbing asbestos, what can I do about it?

This is covered by the Public Employee Safety and Health Program (PEOSH) .  Please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page for information on how to contact the PEOSH Program for assistance.

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Testing for Asbestos

Q.  How can I find out if I have asbestos in my home or not?

It is recommended that you hire a professional asbestos inspector certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an inspection and take samples of any suspect asbestos-containing material. If you can’t afford to hire an inspector, you can contact an accredited laboratory to find out how much it would cost to analyze a sample and how they prefer it to be submitted.

Q.  What types of testing methods are available? 

There are a number of recognized testing methods for asbestos. Samples are typically analyzed by three main methods:  Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), and Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM). Not all techniques can be used for all sample types. Below is a description of each:

PLM - Typically fast and inexpensive; can distinguish asbestos fibers from other fibers such as fiberglass and cellulose; most common procedure for bulk samples; TEM recommended for accurate determination for samples such as floor tiles.

TEM - More expensive; state-of-the-science; magnification of at least 25,000X; accurately identifies fibers which PLM and PCM cannot confidently identify as asbestos or non-asbestos; recommended for dust wipe samples so that asbestos fibers are accurately identified; can be used for both bulk and air samples

PCM - Typically fast and inexpensive; cannot identify asbestos directly; for lower detection limits or confirmation of asbestos, TEM is recommended; common analytical technique used for analysis of air samples

Following is a chart indicating the type of sample and appropriate testing methodologies for that sample:

Sample Type

Method of Analysis

Bulk Sample

Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM)

Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)

Surface/Wipe Sample

Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)

Air Sample

Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM)

Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)


Q.  How do I know for sure whether or not something contains asbestos?

Unless the insulation is labeled as asbestos you cannot tell if it is asbestos-containing by merely examining it.  To determine the presence of asbestos, a sample of the material must be analyzed by a laboratory that is accredited for analyzing asbestos.  We recommend using a laboratory accredited by one of these two following organizations: 

Q.  What is the proper way to take an asbestos sample so that it doesn’t contaminate the area?

We recommend that a professional take the sample, however, homeowners/building occupants should be informed about the proper procedures to make sure the area isn't contaminated during the sampling process. Following are the steps that should be taken:

  • Lightly wet the area with a fine water mist where the sample is to be taken. A small amount of detergent should be added to the water to help it penetrate the asbestos fibers better. 
  • A small sample of no more that one square inch of material is necessary (the laboratory where the sample will be taken will generally have guidelines on the size of the sample they need). 
  • The sample should be placed in two zip lock bags (one inside the other) or some other type of air tight container.
  • The container should then be labeled with a description of the material, where it was taken and the date the sample was taken. 
  • To seal any loose asbestos around the sample area, clear spray lacquer can be used.  Make sure the nozzle is far enough away to mist the exposed area before applying a heavier coat.  If there is any asbestos dust it should be wiped up with a wet disposable cloth or paper towel.  Any towels or cloth used for this purpose should be disposed of immediately.

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What to Do if You Have Asbestos

Q.  How can I protect my health?

  • Do not sand, cut or break any asbestos containing materials (ACM).  Even if materials are non-friable  they will release fibers if they are disturbed in this manner. 
  • If you must work in an area where asbestos dust may be present, wet the area down thoroughly with a garden sprayer (or a regular spray bottle) filled with water and a few drops dish detergent. The detergent reduces the surface tension of the water and allows it to penetrate any asbestos fibers more readily, thus keeping them from becoming airborne.  Dispose of any rags used to clean up ACM dust.
  • Never use a regular household vacuum on asbestos containing dust.  Even if the vacuum is equipped with a High Efficiency (HEPA) filter, you will not be able to decontaminate it properly once you have vacuumed up the asbestos dust. Special vacuums are used on asbestos containing dust. They are equipped with a HEPA filter and are specifically designed to filter out asbestos fibers and be easily decontaminated after use. 

Q.  Do I have to remove asbestos if I have it?

There are no state or federal laws that specifically require you to remove asbestos in your home just for the sake of getting rid of it.  Most of the time, asbestos in the home is not hazardous.  The most common home construction materials which contain asbestos, are floor tiles, roofing and siding. These materials are very strong and don't readily crumble or release asbestos fibers unless they are subjected to strong forces. Occasionally, other materials, such as asbestos pipe insulation,  boiler lagging, asbestos-containing thermal insulation (such as batt or blown-in insulation), were used in home construction. If you determine that you have this type of material, through inspection and analysis by a qualified professional, you should seek the help of a consultant to aid you in determining what you need to do to remedy your situation. If you never disturb these materials, you may be able to leave them alone. However, if you know that a needed repair or renovation will disturb the material, you may want to start planning with your consultant to abate the asbestos before the renovations begin.

Q.  I've heard that vermiculite might contain asbestos, is that true?

Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral which may contain asbestos.  The uses of vermiculite vary.  It has been used in potting soil for aeration purposes as well as in attics for insulation.  The US Environmental Protection Agency has a considerable amount of information on their website regarding this topic.  Click on the following links for more information:

Q.  What can I do to make sure my asbestos doesn’t become dangerous?

If you suspect or know that there is asbestos in your home, periodically check it for breakage, tears, abrasions, or water damage.  If you discover slightly damaged material, limit access to the area and do not touch or disturb it.  If the asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, professional repair or removal is needed.

Q.  Can I remove the asbestos in my home myself?

Technically, there are no regulations that forbid a homeowner from removing asbestos in their own home themselves, but we strongly advise against it for a number of reasons:

  • Asbestos is a known human carcinogen.  If it is removed improperly, it can cause your home to be seriously contaminated.  Professional cleanup of the contamination, could be more costly than if the abatement had originally been performed by professionals.
  • Children are particularly susceptible to asbestos related disease.  The normal latency period for an asbestos related disease in adults can be anywhere from 20 to 50 years after exposure.  However, among children, the latency period can be much shorter, striking them very early in life.
  • Asbestos is difficult to control without the proper equipment.  Special   equipment has been designed for abating asbestos properly. This equipment must be used and cleaned in a proper manner to ensure that little or no exposure to asbestos fibers occurs during or after abatement.
  • Asbestos fibers can be too small for the human eye to detect.  Professional asbestos abatement contractors use specialized cleaning equipment and confinement techniques to remove and contain asbestos materials and fibers.  Once complete, air samples should be taken to ensure that there are no asbestos fibers remaining.
Q.  How can I find someone who is qualified to remove asbestos?

NJ requires all contractors who abate asbestos-containing materials, to have a NJ Department of Labor and Workplace Development (DOLWD) license. In addition, all of the contractor's employees (who conduct the abatement) must possess either a DOLWD worker or supervisor permit. 

For information on how to contact the DOLWD to request a list of contractors or check to see of a contractor is licensed, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page 

Please Note: The only exception to licensing requirements for the removal of asbestos containing materials is if the contractor has acquired an exemption for certain types of non-friable asbestos materials such as floor tile.  For more information regarding exemption requirements, you should contact the Compliance Assistance Project within Indoor Environments Program. For more information on how to contact this project, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts.

Q.  What can I do to make sure the contractor I hire is competent?

To be sure you are hiring a contractor who will do a safe and satisfactory job, you may want to do the following:

  • Call the NJ Department of Labor and Workplace Development at 609-633-2158 to ensure that the contractor is licensed and reputable.
  • Ask the contractor about their abatement history and for references from similar projects.
  • Obtain a detailed estimate of the exact services to be provided, including monitoring, design, replacement, damages, etc.
  • Ask about their liability insurance, including the type, what it covers and the amount.
  • Obtain numerous estimates, they can vary significantly.  Make sure all estimates are based on the same job requirements and specifications.
  • Consider hiring a monitoring firm (which has no financial relationship to the abatement contractor) to oversee the removal.  Generally these projects are done better, but can be more costly.
  • Most importantly, talk to each contractor, learn exactly what they will do for you.  Check your comfort level with each contractor and then hire one based upon an overall evaluation of services, not just cost.
  • Educate yourself regarding what occurs during an asbestos abatement so you know what to expect and can understand what must be done.

Q. What steps take place during an asbestos abatement?
Following are the primary steps of an asbestos abatement project:

  1. All movable objects should be moved out of the area.  All of these objects should be wiped down and/or vacuumed off (the only vacuum to be used for this purpose is one specifically designed to filter out asbestos fibers) prior to being removed.  Any objects remaining in the area as well as the area itself should also be wet wiped and vacuumed.
  2. Any vents or other portals (doors, windows, outlets, etc.) leading to the area should be sealed with plastic. These are referred to “critical barriers” and should be given special attention when sealing, because they are the most likely areas where asbestos fibers would escape during an abatement.  Filters (such as from the HVAC system) which may have been contaminated, should be removed and disposed of. In addition, all non-removable objects, which are not part of the structural components to be abated, should also be covered with plastic.  Finally, the remaining area should then be covered with plastic to protect all surfaces which are not involved in the abatement.

    Please Note: At this point, depending on what type of material is to be removed, a three-stage decontamination chamber may be set up.  That chamber should consist of a series of three rooms.  The three rooms are a “clean room”, a “shower room”, and a “dirty room” (in that order). Workers entering the work area should always change out of their street clothes and into disposable overalls, don appropriate respiratory protection, and then enter the work area through the decontamination unit.  When leaving the work area, workers must leave the disposable overalls in the dirty room and take a shower, at which time they will also decontaminate their respirator.  Additionally, there may be a filtration unit set up to create a “negative pressure” environment within the containment.  This simply means that a specially designed air filtration unit will exhaust, through a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter (which is 99.9 % efficient in filtering asbestos fibers down to .3 microns in size), air from the contained area to the outside. This will prevent air from “back drafting” through decontamination unit into other areas of the building.  If the material to be abated is pipe material, there may be general isolation of the work area (with plastic) and then they will use something called a glovebag to remove the ACM pipe lagging.
  3. The ACM will be removed.
  4. The area will be cleaned by wet wiping and HEPA vacuuming all surfaces within the containment area.
  5. A visual inspection should be conducted to insure all visible asbestos has been removed. If any material is found is should be removed and the area should be recleaned.
  6. A sealant should be applied to all surfaces to “lock down” any remaining microscopic fibers. 
  7. Non-critical barriers are removed and the entire area should be cleaned again.
  8. Air sampling should be conducted to ensure that fibers which cannot be seen, or have not been “locked down” by the sealant, are not present. This sampling should be conducted in a fashion to simulate occupancy (often conducted with fans running).  The acceptable limit for these air samples are anything below 0.01 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc) of air.  If the air sample is above this, the area should be re-cleaned and re-sampled. 
  9. Once acceptable air levels are reached, the remaining plastic barriers can be removed and the area can be re-occupied.


Q.  Where can asbestos-containing waste be disposed of?

The transportation and disposal of asbestos-containing waste in NJ is regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  For more information contact the DEP.

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Q.  Who regulates Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM)?

Federal Regulatory Agencies:


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is responsible for developing and enforcing   regulations necessary to protect the general public from exposure to airborne contaminants that are known to be hazardous to human health. 


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) is responsible for the health and safety of workers who may be exposed to asbestos in their work place, or in connection to their jobs. 

NJ State Regulatory Agencies:

Department of Health

The NJ Department of Health (DOH) is the lead agency for the asbestos and environmental health information in NJ. 

The Indoor Environments Program administers the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), provides site audits and a Quality Assurance/Quality Control program for asbestos abatement in schools. The DOH also provides training and accreditation for asbestos training providers and conducts studies to evaluate asbestos abatement and management methods.

The Public Employee Safety and Health Program regulates asbestos exposures among public employees.

Department of Environmental Protection

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulates, the management, transportation and disposal of ACM. In concert with county health departments, the DEP investigates reports of unregistered transporters, illegal disposal and oversees the review of the 10-day notification submissions.

Department of Community Affairs

The NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA), regulates asbestos remediation in schools and buildings in which public employees are located and regulates the air monitoring firms for asbestos abatement projects. To find out who to contact the DCA, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page.

Department of Labor and Workplace Development

The NJ Department of Labor and Workplace Development (DOLWD) licenses abatement contractors, permits abatement workers and supervisors, and investigates complaints of improper abatements in private homes and commercial buildings.  For more information on how to contact the DOLWD, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page.

Q.  What are the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) regulations governing asbestos?


In 1979, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA began an asbestos technical assistance program for building owners, environmental groups, contractors and industry. In May 1982, EPA issued the first regulation intended to control asbestos in schools under the authority of TSCA; this regulation was known as the "Asbestos-in-Schools Rule". Starting in 1985, loans and grants have been given each year to aid Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in conducting asbestos abatement projects under the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act (ASHAA).


In 1986, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA; Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools, 40 CFR Part 763, Subpart E) was signed into law as Title II of TSCA.  AHERA is more inclusive than the May 1982 Asbestos-in-Schools Rule.  AHERA requires Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to hire an accredited individual to inspect their schools for Asbestos Containing Building Materials (ACBM) and prepare asbestos management plans which recommend the best way to reduce the asbestos hazard.  Once all required approvals have been granted and the notification requirements have been met, the plan is implemented.  AHERA also requires that abatement planner/project, workers and supervisors also be accredited.  Contractors who improperly remove asbestos from schools can be liable under both AHERA and the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). For more information on Asbestos in NJ Schools you can contact   the Indoor Environments Program.


The Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1970 requires EPA to develop and enforce regulations to protect the general requires the EPA to develop and enforce regulations to protect the general public from exposure to airborne contaminants that are known to be hazardous to human health.  In   accordance with Section 112 of the CAA, EPA established the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).  Asbestos was one of the first hazardous air pollutants regulated under Section 112.  On March 31, 1971, the EPA identified asbestos as a hazardous pollutant, and on April 6, 1973, EPA promulgated the Asbestos NESHAP in 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M.

In short, Asbestos NESHAPs is intended to minimize the release of asbestos fibers during activities involving the handling of asbestos.  Accordingly, it specifies removal of asbestos and work practices to be followed prior to renovations and demolitions of buildings which contain a certain threshold amount of friable asbestos.  Most often, NESHAPs requires action to be taken by the person who owns, leases, operates, controls or supervises the facility being demolished or renovated.  The regulation requires owners and operators subject to NESHAPs to notify delegated State and local agencies and/or their EPA Regional Offices before demolition or renovation activities begin.  Waste handling and disposal are also regulated by NESHAPs.

Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Rule:


  In 1989, EPA published the “Asbestos: Manufacture, Importation, Processing, and Distribution in Commerce Prohibitions; Final Rule” (40 CFR Part 763, Subpart I).  The rule would have eventually banned about 94 percent of the asbestos used in the US (based on 1985 estimates).  However, in 1991, the US Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, vacated and remanded the majority of the rule.  Currently, the manufacture, importation, processing and distribution of most asbestos-containing products is still legal.  For more information, go to the next section entitled “Overturning of Asbestos Ban”.


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Overturning of Asbestos Ban

Q.  Wasn’t the use and manufacture of asbestos banned?

In 1989, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the “Asbestos: Manufacture, Importation, Processing, and Distribution in Commerce Prohibitions; Final Rule” (40 CFR Part 763, Subpart I).  The rule would have eventually banned about 94 percent of the asbestos used in the US (based on 1985 estimates).  However, in 1991, the US Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, vacated and remanded the majority of the rule.  Currently, the manufacture, importation, processing and distribution of most asbestos-containing products is still legal.  To learn more about the overturning of the asbestos ban, go to EPA's website.

Q.  Why did the courts overturn the ban on asbestos?

The comprehensive, 57-page opinion written by Judge Jerry E. Smith, states that the Court "conclude(d) that EPA has presented insufficient evidence to justify its asbestos ban." The Court stated that its conclusion was based on "the failure of EPA to consider all necessary evidence" and "to give adequate weight to statutory language requiring it to promulgate the least burdensome, reasonable regulation required to protect the environment adequately."

The Court found EPA's support for a ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) deficient in several major ways:

  • First, after noting that a ban - "the death penalty alternative" - is "the most burdensome of all possible" rules under TSCA, the Court held EPA had failed "to explore in more than a cursory way the less burdensome alternative to a total ban." EPA failed, the Court stated, "to calculate the cost and benefits" of "each regulatory option," as it is required to do to determine whether "any other regulation - would achieve an   acceptable level of risk." The Court explained that EPA had not made such calculations "as it believed there was no asbestos exposure level for which the risk of injury or death was zero," but that this Agency assumption was incorrect as  "reducing risk to zero was not the task Congress set for the EPA in enacting TSCA."
  • Second, the Court found EPA had failed "to evaluate the harm that will result from increased use of substitute products," many of which, the Court noted, contained carcinogens. As a result, said the Court, the ban "actually may increase the risk of injury Americans face."
  • Third, The Court held EPA had failed by "basically ignoring the cost side of the TSCA equation" to meet the statutory requirements to "balance the cost of its regulation against their benefits." The Court noted that "EPA's willingness to argue (for) spending $23.7 million to save less than one-third of a life reveals that its economic review of its regulations, as required by TSCA, was meaningless." The court added "such high costs are rarely, if ever, used to support a safety regulations."
  • Fourth, the Court found EPA's procedure inadequate both because it did not permit" full cross-examination of all its major witnesses," and because it "failed to give notice to the public" of the exposure estimates that it "used to support a substantial part" of its role. The Court found the latter flaw sufficient in and of itself to "overturn" the   rule.

Q.  Does this overturn of the ban on asbestos mean that there are no restrictions on the use of asbestos in the U.S.?

No, the court did uphold those portions of EPA’s rule that banned, as of 1990, the new manufacture of asbestos-containing products that were no longer being manufactured in 1989.

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 Training, Licensing and Permitting in NJ

Q. What types of state licenses/permits/certifications are required to do asbestos-related work in NJ?

In New Jersey, all asbestos abatement Supervisors, and Workers must have NJ asbestos permits and their employers must possess an asbestos Contractor’s license in order to perform asbestos-related work. The NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD) issues all licenses and permits, however the NJ Department of Health (DOH) oversees the training. 

Monitoring firms who perform clearance monitoring on any building subject to the NJ Department of Community Affairs' (DCA) Subchapter 8 must be licensed as an Asbestos Safety Control Monitoring (ASCM) firm.  Employees of the ASCM firms, called Asbestos Safety Technicians (ASTs), must also be licensed. 

For information on how to contact the DOH, DOLWD, or the DCA, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts  page.

Q.  Does NJ have reciprocity with any other states?

Yes, there is reciprocity for workers and supervisors who have currently valid permits from another state, which has been authorized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer a state asbestos training and certification program.  Applicants must complete an Application for Reciprocal Asbestos Accreditation [pdf 44k] and submit it to the DOH for review. Once that application is approved, the applicant must pass NJ’s third party state examination.  Once the applicant has passed the NJ examination, they may then apply to the NJ Department of Labor and Workplace Development (DOLWD) for a permit. 

For information on how to contact the DOH or the DOLWD, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page.

Q.  Are there requirements for asbestos inspectors, management planners, and project designers to be licensed by NJ? 

No, New Jersey has no regulations that require state certification for these disciplines.  If an individual has acquired AHERA/EPA accredited certification in these disciplines from another US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized state, you are qualified to do this type of work in New Jersey.  Proof of these certifications must be made available upon request.

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Additional Information

Q.  Where can I get more information on asbestos? 

For more information, please refer to the Indoor Environments Contacts page or go to the related asbestos links page.

Department of Health

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Last Modified: Friday, 13-Jul-12 12:11:11