Skip all navigation Skip to page navigation

DHHS Home | A-Z Site Map | Divisions | About Us | Contacts

NC Department of Health and Human Services
NC Division of Public Health
N.C. Public Health Home

Occupational & Environmental Epidemiology


"Asbestos" is the name given to a naturally occurring group of minerals composed of tiny fibers that can be inhaled into the lungs, where they tend to stay because of their shape. Inhaled asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and other lung diseases that may not appear until many years after exposure.

Naturally Occuring Asbestos (NOA)

Natural asbestos deposits can be found in in soil and ultramafic rock formations. People may be exposed to asbestos fibers in these areas when the soil or rocks are disturbed. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has identified NOA locations in the western part of the state. Learn more about naturally occurring asbestos. Also, find naturally occurring asbestos sites in North Carolina by county.

Asbestos Containing Building Materials and Products

Because of its many useful characteristics, including resistance to fire and heat, asbestos has long been used in the manufacture of some 3,000 different building materials, including floor tile, linoleum or sheet vinyl, cement siding, roofing materials/sealants, pipe insulation, adhesives, sprayed-on fireproofing, and decorative ceiling treatments.

The presence of intact asbestos-containing material in a building is not likely to pose a health risk. However, if the material is damaged or disturbed, asbestos fibers can be released into the air. Some asbestos-containing materials such as sprayed-on ceiling finishes, textured ceilings, fireproofing, pipe insulation, and ceiling tiles can be easily damaged by water, vibration or physical contact. In other products, such as vinyl floor tile and siding, asbestos is combined with a binding material so that it is not readily released into the air. However, if the materials are sanded, drilled, cut or crushed, asbestos-containing dust may become airborne and may be inhaled. To prevent asbestos exposure, do not disturb materials containing asbestos, and do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. Major repairs or removal of asbestos should only be performed by trained asbestos professionals.

For information on demolition, asbestos removal/renovations, permits, professional training and accreditation, and other asbestos hazard management activities in North Carolina, refer to the Asbestos Hazard Management Program (AHMP) of the N.C. Division of Public Health.

For information about reporting asbestosis and other occupational illnesses and injuries, see Occupational Health.

Additional Information