Understanding where asbestos goes.

Asbestos is hazardous, and many of its uses have been banned. 

Much of the asbestos used in the twentieth century was removed and deposited into landfills. But there is still a lot of asbestos in buildings, products and the environment.

The United States government does not consider asbestos as hazardous waste. 

However, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and its state-level counterparts limit where, when, and how commercial enterprises can dispose of asbestos. While requirements change across state borders, the E.P.A. broadly recommends that asbestos products be processed only by authorized landfills. 

What is asbestos and why is it dangerous?

Asbestos is a term used to describe six different types of naturally occurring minerals. 

Since asbestos is inherently strong, resilient, and heat-resistant, it was once a mainstay of global industry. However, asbestos production only skyrocketed in the United States between the late 19th and 20th centuries. 

Asbestos and asbestos-containing products were used in thousands of products, and most buildings constructed before the 1980s.

As urbanization’s abundance of economic opportunities drove millions of Americans from the countryside into the city, manufacturers saw asbestos as an inexpensive means to meet growing demand for affordable housing. Up until the late 1970s, American manufacturers incorporated asbestos into a variety of products, from automotive parts to vinyl floor tiles and roof shingles.  

Asbestos is an ongoing public health hazard.

Despite its documented dangers, asbestos was not banned in the United States until 1989. 

We know today that asbestos is an incredibly dangerous substance, capable of causing severe respiratory distress and disease, up to and including cancer.

However, asbestos is not inherently dangerous. When asbestos is left undisturbed—underneath the ground, or trapped behind walls—it poses little risk to human health. But when asbestos is broken down into tiny, microscopic pieces, it can disperse and dissipate into the air. 

“The overall evidence suggests there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.”

Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH)1

Crumbled asbestos is generally known as “friable” asbestos. Friable asbestos is easily inhaled. 

Unfortunately, friable asbestos is among the mineral’s most common—and most dangerous—forms. 

If friable asbestos is inhaled, its fibers can enter the lungs. Over time, asbestos fibers can accumulate inside, causing severe scarring and significant inflammation. Asbestos fibers can even infiltrate other parts of the body, including: 

  • The pleural tissue which surrounds the lungs and encases the inner chest; 
  • The heart; 
  • The abdomen; 
  • The ovaries; and
  • The testicles. 


If you may have been exposed to asbestos, speak with your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related damage.

Since asbestos is so resilient, the body often struggles to “clean” fibers from affected tissue. The immune system’s inability to eradicate asbestos can lead to long-term damage, which could take the form of: 

  • Asbestosis
  • Pleural effusions 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 

Experts estimate that anywhere between 27 million and 105 million Americans have been or continue to be exposed to asbestos. 

“Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after exposure.”

Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH)2

While the rates of serious asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, have decreased since the E.P.A.’s 1989 ban on most asbestos products, asbestos illnesses still claim about 39,000 lives each and every year.

Since asbestos still constitutes a critical threat to public health, the federal government has set regulations on how, when, and where asbestos materials can be disposed

Asbestos Removal Laws  

The Environmental Protection Agency began restricting the import, manufacture, and use of asbestos-containing materials, or ACMs, in the late 1970s. 

While the federal government has yet to recognize asbestos as a toxic waste, employers and private businesses must still comply with the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). 

Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants

NESHAP broadly instructs commercial enterprises to adhere to the Clean Water Act, which: 

  • Specifies safe work practices for asbestos, to be followed during the demolition and renovation of most large structures; 
  • Requires that companies notify regulatory officials of any demolition or renovation work affecting an asbestos-contaminated building or site; and 

NESHAP’s Asbestos Disposal Rules 

Although NESHAP has some exceptions, it typically requires that any positively identified asbestos-containing materials be: 

  • Isolated prior to disposal; 
  • Wetted and sealed inside a labeled, leak-tight container; and 

Active and Inactive Asbestos Landfill Expectations

The federal government classifies asbestos-containing landfills as “active” or “inactive.” 

All active asbestos-containing landfills must be free from visible asbestos emissions. 

If there are any detectable emissions, then the landfill must use alternative disposal methods: 

  • At the end of each operating day, or once per every 24-hour period, the landfill must cover asbestos waste with at least 15 centimeters of compacted, non-asbestos-containing material; or 
  • Apply a resinous or petroleum-based dust suppression agent to the affected waste. 

Irrespective of how an authorized asbestos landfill chooses to reduce environmental emissions, any remnant asbestos waste must be covered by either non-asbestos-containing materials or be placed in an area with warning signs and restricted-entry fencing. 

Inactive asbestos landfills are subject to similar requirements. An inactive asbestos landfill must: 

  • Have no visible emissions; 
  • Cover asbestos waste with at least 15 centimeters of compacted non-asbestos-containing material. The affected area should then be covered by maintained vegetation; or
  • Cover asbestos waste with at least 60 centimeters of non-asbestos-containing materials. 

Do You Qualify For Compensation?

Quickly and easily find out how you were exposed by searching W.A.R.D., the largest asbestos database on the planet.


Asbestos Recycling 

The United States government allows private parties and commercial enterprises to recycle asbestos.

However, asbestos recycling can be a complex, painstaking, and expensive process. 

Asbestos may be recycled and reformed into non-toxic materials by: 

Heating asbestos-containing materials in a sodium hydroxide solution. 

The temperature of the solution should exceed 1,250 degrees Celsius. The process can yield nonhazardous glasses, which can be used to create ceramics and infrastructure aggregates. 

Heating asbestos-containing materials with a microwave thermal treatment. 

The process can yield nonhazardous ceramic bricks or porcelain tiles. 

Milling asbestos at high speeds

Milling asbestos breaks down the asbestos fibers into nonhazardous and inert minerals. 


The Potential Dangers of Asbestos Landfills

When asbestos landfills comply with federal and state-level regulations, they pose little danger to the public. 

However, people living close to an asbestos landfill should be aware that improperly stored or disposed asbestos has the potential to contaminate drinking water. Heavy rains, severe storms, and other inclement weather events could displace asbestos fibers, forcing them into underground aqueducts or above-ground sources of water.  

Current federal regulations require community water services to monitor toxins in the local water supply. If asbestos concentrations rise above seven million fibers per liter, the water provider is required to notify the public via newspapers, radio, television, and any other available means. 

While asbestos landfills could infiltrate community drinking water, most asbestos-related water contamination is a consequence of old plumbing and poor renovation or demolition practices. 


AsbestosClaims.law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information is helpful.

If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information about compensation for asbestos injuries.

And if you believe that you were exposed to asbestos, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

All without filing a lawsuit.

If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.

1 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.
2 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.