About Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used in many different kinds of construction materials as insulation and a fire retardant because of its fiber strength and heat resistance. Asbestos can be found in attic and wall insulation, vinyl floor tiles, roofing and siding shingles, textured paint, patching compounds, and hot water or steam pipes coated or wrapped with asbestos material or tape.1

Facts and Figures

  • Asbestos exposure is most common for people who work in or live near sites of construction, mining, automotive brake and clutch repair work and the manufacturing of asbestos products.2
  • Asbestos exposure can occur when asbestos-containing products such as insulation, floor tiles or pipe wrap are deteriorated or damaged.3
  • Concentrations of airborne asbestos can rise when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed during maintenance or renovation activities such as cutting or sanding.3
  • Intact, undamaged asbestos-containing materials do not pose a serious health risk but should be monitored for signs of damage or deterioration.4


Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and inhalation of asbestos fibers is known to cause respiratory problems and lung diseases such as: Mesothelioma, Asbestosis, and Lung Cancer.5

Gain Control: Actions You Can Take

To help prevent health and safety risks due to asbestos, see below for suggested actions you can take1:

  • Do leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone.
  • Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material.
  • Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain 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 a trained and accredited asbestos professional.
  • Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
  • Don’t use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on flooring that may contain asbestos. Don’t sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing install new floor covering 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

Local Resources for Detroit Residents

For contact information of partner organizations that might be able to provide help with asbestos hazards in your home, visit our Get Help page.


1United States Environmental Protection Agency: Asbestos (http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/)
2National Cancer Institute: Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/asbestos)
3American Lung Association: Asbestos (http://www.lung.org/healthy-air/home/resources/asbestos.html#1)
4University of Sciences Environmental Health and Radiation Safety (EHRS) Department: Q&A on Asbestos (http://www.usciences.edu/safety/infotrain/QAAsbestos.pdf)
5National Center for Healthy Housing: Asbestos (http://www.nchh.org/What-We-Do/Health-Hazards–Prevention–and-Solutions/Asbestos.aspx)