Natural Disasters


Asbestos is a known human carcinogen and can cause chronic lung disease as well as lung and other cancers.  

How are asbestos & natural disasters related?

Natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, etc.) can destroy homes and buildings which can then lead to asbestos materials being exposed and its fibers released.

The EPA states, “elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur if asbestos-containing materials present in many older homes are disturbed. If you know or suspect that your home contains asbestos or lead-based paint and any of these materials have been damaged or will otherwise be disturbed during cleanup, seek the assistance of public health authorities and try to obtain help from specially trained contractors, if available.” 

Cleanup and rehabilitation activities can pose health hazards due to the possible presence of asbestos. Asbestos can be present in many types of building materials, such as: wrapping around pipes, drywall taping, popcorn ceiling materials, attic insulation and much more. The first concern, however, is safety for you and your family members. Do not allow children to participate in disaster response cleanup. Inhaling asbestos fibers released from demolition, renovation and handling of asbestos is dangerous. We strongly encourage you to engage a licensed or certified asbestos abatement contractor to do any work involving asbestos.

When residences containing asbestos are renovated or torn down, or when the asbestos is disturbed, minute asbestos fibers may be released into the air. These fibers are so small that they often cannot be seen with the naked eye and can be inhaled without one even knowing, underscoring how dangerous asbestos can really be.

According to the EPA, the manufacture, importation, processing and distribution in commerce of these products, as well as some others not listed, are not banned. The list below does not include every product that may contain asbestos, but these are the most common.  • Pipe and boiler and duct coverings (thermal system insulation) • Roofing, shingles and siding • Floor tiles and vinyl flooring, backing and mastic • Vermiculite attic insulation • Plaster, cement, putties and caulk • Ceiling tiles and spray-on coatings (acoustic and fireproofing) • Textured paints • Heat-resistant textiles

How can Homeowner's and Renter's prevent Asbestos exposure After Disaster?

• Wear personal protective equipment. OSHA recommends a rubber half-mask respirator with HEPA (N100, purple) cartridges as a minimum.

• Know the law. There are strict local, state and federal requirements for asbestos removal and disposal that trained licensed professionals must follow.

• Use portable generators carefully, outside and away from the home, to avoid CO poisoning and fires.


The only way to find out if your home has asbestos is to have a sample analyzed at a laboratory. Inspections to determine the presence of asbestos must be performed by certified asbestos inspectors. See International Association of Certified Home Inspectors  or contact your local health department. State contacts are listed here.

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Requirements will vary by jurisdiction.  Check with state and local environmental, safety and permitting agencies for specific requirements in your area.