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How to Identify Asbestos

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For decades, many products and materials were made with asbestos because of its insulating and fire-retardant properties. Manufacturers of siding, shingles, roofing, floor tiles, insulation, cement, cement pipe, HVAC ducts, and pipe coverings routinely used asbestos in their products.

Today the use of asbestos is highly regulated in industry, but as an owner, buyer, worker or resident of older buildings, it’s important to know how to identify asbestos so that you can take steps to protect yourself and others from asbestos exposure.

Watch for crumbling coatings on heating and cooling ducts and insulation on hot water pipes. There may be loose asbestos dust inside air vents as well. Check for asphalt shingles and fiber-reinforced-cement siding shingles on the outside of buildings—if they were installed before 1978 they probably contain asbestos.

Visit building inspection websites that have pictures to help you recognize potential sources. Asbestos that is solidly in place without crumbling or dust of any kind is usually best left alone. It’s when the material is disturbed—broken, sawn, or damaged—that the asbestos fibers become airborne and thus get breathed into the lungs.

Prepare yourself to protect yourself—learn how to identify asbestos. And if you suspect that asbestos fibers may be being released into the air in a factory, office, or home, report this to the owners as soon as possible and ask that they have a formal asbestos risk assessment done.

California asbestos

In California, asbestos was commonly used in many industries. Cement pipe containing asbestos was used extensively—especially during the time the state was undergoing rapid expansion in the 60s and 70s. Today, years later, people who worked with cement pipe in California are coming down with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma.

California now requires contractors to register with the state if they will be removing asbestos in California. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health regulates the use and removal of asbestos in homes, offices, factories, and other buildings. Complaints should be filed with their office.

Other states such as Michigan, Connecticut, and Florida offer similar opportunities for citizens to report potential problems with asbestos. No matter what state you live in, it’s important to protect yourself by learning how to identify asbestos.

Asbestos exposure

Asbestos exposure is the main cause of the disease asbestosis and the fatal lung cancer mesothelioma. When you know how to identify asbestos you minimize your risk of contracting these diseases in the future. If you have already been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you are well advised to consult an experienced asbestos attorney who can give you advice and information about possibly recovering compensation for your asbestos exposure.

Please contact us if you have questions or need more information. HendlerLaw represents individuals who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Feel free to explore these Mesothelioma FAQs and the advice on this website. You can also visit our general website at, call us 24 hours a day at 1.800.443.6353 or e-mail us at