Asbestos Roofing: Useful Information Guide

Roof Online Staff

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An asbestos roofing brochure from 1887.
An asbestos roofing brochure from 1887.
A white residue like this might indicate the presence of asbestos in a roofing material.
A white residue on aged asphalt-based roofing materials may indicate the presence of asbestos.

Basic Information on Asbestos Roofing

Asbestos Roofing” is any roofing material which contains asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers are long, thin, naturally occurring mineral crystals, which used to be added to many roofing materials to increase strength, durability, rigidity, and especially fire-resistance.

Formerly common asbestos-containing roofing materials are fiber-cement shingles and roof panels, asphalt shingles and roll roofing, and asphaltic roofing cement. Many of these materials may be found in existing roofs installed before the mid-1980’s. Generally, roofing cement is the only roofing material currently permitted by regulation in the U.S. to be manufactured with asbestos fibers.

If you are concerned that your existing roof may contain asbestos and you would like to find out for certain, having a sample of the material tested for asbestos is a simple process. You can buy an asbestos test kit on Amazon, take a small sample of the material in question, and mail it to the lab. You’ll receive the results in a few days.

If you are replacing an existing commercial roof, several samples taken from different parts of the roof system are necessary, and it’s probably best to let your roof consultant handle it.

1. General: The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Asbestos page is the place to start for information about asbestos.

2. General: The OSHA Asbestos page provides much of the information you’re probably looking for, with links to applicable standards, health and safety resources, training courses, and other resources.

3. GeneralAsbestos: Homeowner Information – Roofing and Siding provides good basic information for homeowners. On the website of the Minnesota Department of Health.

4. General: “Asbestos-Containing Roofing Materials” is a useful little guide for contractors put together by the NRCA. From 2003 but still worth reading. On the website of the Safirst Corporation.

5. General: “Asbestos Allowed in Some Roofing Materials” is an interesting article from 1999. “The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1997 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s standards do not pertain to asbestos-containing roof cements, coatings, and mastics.” On the website of the US Forest Service.

6. GeneralHealth Effects: “Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases – Also known as Asbestosis, Mesothelioma” is a good page to start researching, with pertinent links to more detailed information. On the website of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

7. Regulations: EPA: “How EPA’s Asbestos Regulations Apply to Roofing Materials“. On the EPA website.

8. Regulations: EPA: “Overview of the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)“. See this EPA page for detailed explanations, guidelines, and exceptions to the federal standards.

9. RegulationsOSHA: “1910.1001 – Asbestos” is one of the two primary applicable standards when removing asbestos-containing roofing material. Other OSHA standards will apply to any roofing work, of course.

10. RegulationsOSHA: “1926.1101 – Asbestos” is the other primary applicable standard covering asbestos-containing roofing material. Other OSHA standards will apply to any roofing work, of course.

11. Safety: “When is Asbestos Dangerous?” is a good, short overview article on the Oregon State University’s website’s Environmental Health and Safety section.

12. Technical: “Applicability Of The Asbestos NESHAP To Asbestos Roofing Removal Operations” is an EPA document from 1994 that’s full of useful technical information about asbestos content in roofing materials. (NESHAP is the acronym used for the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, the emission standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.)

13. Testing: If you have material samples that you’d like to get tested for asbestos, there is a state-by-state directory of accredited testing laboratories available on the website of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the US Department of Commerce. Find a lab near you to perform Asbestos Fiber Analysis (PLM Test Method). Also locates accredited labs in Canada.