Humans have been using asbestos for thousands of years, utilizing its heat and fire resistance and insulative properties in a wide range of product manufacture. Any building constructed before the 1980s may contain asbestos.

The use of asbestos for fire doors became particularly prevalent in the early 20th century, when industrialization brought about a seismic increase in manufacturing. Across the world, corporations took advantage of using the relatively cheap and versatile asbestos material to improve the quality of products, particularly in regard to the efficacy of any products requiring fire or heat resistant properties. 

In the US, the use of asbestos reached its peak around 1975. By this time, many executives were aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure. However, instead of addressing the issue to protect their workers and consumers, they kept the knowledge under wraps, conspiring with many other professionals to protect the vast profits they were amassing. Eventually, these cover-ups were made public and the offending executives and corporations faced extensive asbestos litigation.

While shockingly still not entirely banned, asbestos is no longer commonly used in the manufacture of products, and there are no longer any asbestos mines in the US. 

Photo by Ivy.D Design on Unsplash

Asbestos in fire doors

Asbestos was once commonly used in the manufacture of fire doors. Fire doors would be constructed with an outer frame made of wood, which was then covered with asbestos cement sheets. The central core of the door was also often made of asbestos or a material made of compressed asbestos

Asbestos Fire Doors Were Used for Safety, But Created Other Dangers

It is common to find these fire doors in an older building’s fire escape routes or areas that lead into stairwells. They are also often found in areas that separate different building sections to assist in confining any blazes and prevent them from spreading further. 

The use of asbestos in the manufacture of fire doors was particularly prevalent during the mid to late 20th century. 

Any remaining fire doors that date back to the 1960s or 1970s have a very high chance of containing asbestos; those dating back to the early 1980s have a considerably lower chance; any fire door manufactured in the late 1980s is even more unlikely; any fire door manufactured from 1990 onwards will not contain asbestos. 

What if an old asbestos fire door is still in place?

Asbestos only poses a health risk when the material is disturbed, sending microscopic fibers into the air to be inhaled or ingested. For this reason, it is imperative that you do not attempt any maintenance work on a fire door that you suspect could contain asbestos – particularly when it involves using power tools, that can significantly disturb the material and send it airborne. 

Use caution in removing it if you encounter an asbestos fire door

That said, if you suspect that a fire door contains asbestos, it is best to have the whole door removed by expert asbestos contractors and have it replaced by a modern alternative.

Asbestos fire door uses and areas to avoid

Otherwise known as safety doors, fire barrier doors, and substation main doors, asbestos fire doors were commonly used to prevent the spread of fires in areas such as:

  • Residential buildings
  • Commercial and industrial buildings
  • Substations
  • Switch-rooms and (steel clad) transformers

Friable asbestos is often present in older substation fire doors, in switch rooms and transformers, and in some interior connecting doors. They usually feature either a wood or steel cladding, or a plastic-like mastic insulation. Given that the asbestos is inside a fire door, they can be difficult to identify. Newer fire doors are now labeled as asbestos-free, and any that aren’t clearly marked should be treated as asbestos-containing doors. 

Removing asbestos fire doors

A degraded or broken asbestos fire door can release dangerous asbestos fibers into the air. An asbestos air test can help determine the extent of the risk and what to do about it.

If you suspect that a fire door contains asbestos: 

  1. Assume that it does, and do not drill into it or attempt to remove it without taking the necessary precautions
  2. If the door appears damaged and/or you find any white or gray dust surrounding the door, get a sample tested by an accredited laboratory
  3. Unless the presence of asbestos has been completely ruled out, arrange for the door to be removed by an expert contractor licensed to remove asbestos. Ideally, opt for a contractor who can also carry out air quality monitoring during the removal process, too
  4. Ensure that the contractor uses an approved asbestos-removal vacuum cleaner to guarantee that all asbestos fibers are removed

As with so many other residential and commercial asbestos-containing products, fire doors made with asbestos can still be present in homes and buildings today. The recommended course of action is to always take a highly cautious approach and call in the experts to have it removed.


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.

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 (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.