Asbestos Inspections and Abatement: Frequently Asked Questions

What is asbestos? 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil. Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time during their life, but most people do not become ill from their exposure.

Due to its unique properties – fire and heat resistance, strength, and electrical conductivity – asbestos had many uses in the construction trades. In fact, many asbestos-containing materials were used in residential buildings. The most common types of asbestos-containing materials in NYCHA apartments are vinyl asbestos floor tiles, insulation on pipes, and the surface coating on ceilings. Please note that asbestos-containing materials are not harmful unless they are disturbed or damaged.

What are the consequences of exposure to asbestos?

People are exposed to asbestos when they breathe in asbestos fibers. Asbestos can be released into the air when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed. However, undamaged asbestos-containing materials do not pose a health risk.

People who breathe in asbestos fibers are at risk for several serious diseases. These diseases include lung cancer, digestive tract cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer in the lining of the lungs or stomach), and asbestosis (lung scarring). In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects.

You are at increased risk for asbestos-related diseases if:

  • You are exposed to asbestos on a regular basis, usually over many years.
  • You work as a construction, insulation, or shipyard worker and have installed, disturbed, or removed asbestos without proper protection.

Also, smokers who are exposed to asbestos have a much higher risk for disease than non-smokers who are exposed.

Asbestos exposure does not usually cause immediate health conditions, such as difficulty in breathing or skin problems.

There are no routine medical tests for asbestos exposure. Chest X-rays and lung function tests can show lung damage once it has formed. Asbestos-related diseases may not develop until 10 to 40 years after exposure.

For more information about asbestos, please visit the NYC Health Department’s website:

How is asbestos handled at NYCHA?

Insulation and fireproofing containing asbestos were banned in the late 1970s, but it is still legal to purchase many other materials containing asbestos. However, NYCHA no longer purchases any materials that contain asbestos.

NYCHA tests building materials for asbestos when materials might be disturbed, and repairs asbestos-containing material when repairs can be performed safely. If this is not possible, or when other work being performed may result in the disturbance of asbestos, asbestos-containing materials are removed.

Under no circumstances should a resident attempt to remove material that may contain asbestos, such as floor tile or pipe insulation. Disturbing such material might create a health hazard where none existed before. For more information, guidance, and assistance about asbestos or to have any asbestos condition investigated, please contact your property management office or call the Customer Contact Center at (718) 707-7771.

Why would there be asbestos abatement in a nearby apartment but not in mine?

Asbestos abatement is performed in vacant apartments when the apartment turnover prep work impacts materials that contain asbestos. Asbestos abatement is performed in occupied apartments whenever repairs or renovations will be made in places where asbestos has been identified.

Can my apartment be inspected for asbestos if I suspect it is present?

If you think there may be asbestos in your apartment, please contact your property management office or call the Customer Contact Center at (718) 707-7771 to schedule an inspection.

Why is my apartment being tested for asbestos?

An apartment is tested for asbestos when work is scheduled in the apartment that might disturb a material that may contain asbestos.

How will I be notified of an asbestos inspection?

Your property manager will notify you of the scheduled asbestos inspection date.

What if I can’t be home for my inspection appointment?

Please notify your property manager if you cannot be home for the inspection.

How will the inspection be conducted?

An asbestos inspection involves taking samples from asbestos-containing materials; these samples are then analyzed by a laboratory to determine whether they contain asbestos.

How long does the inspection take?

It usually takes about 30 minutes to 2 hours to collect samples in the apartment.

What do I need to do to prepare for my asbestos inspection?

An adult 18 years of age or older must be home during the entire inspection. The inspectors will need access to all rooms in your home, including a small area of the walls inside the closets, bedrooms, kitchen, living room, bathrooms, and windowsills. A clear path to the walls in each of these rooms is required. No doors can remain locked inside the apartment.

Are there protocols regarding COVID-19?

If any member of your household has tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who has tested positive, please notify property management staff ahead of the inspection, or notify the inspectors before they enter your home. Your inspection will be rescheduled. The asbestos inspectors will wear masks while in your home to protect you and your family and will follow all applicable COVID-19 guidelines. Please notify the property management office immediately if you see any inspectors without masks on.

How long will it take to receive the results of my asbestos inspection?

The results of the inspection will be provided to you within a few days or up to two weeks.

What happens if asbestos is found in my apartment?

You will be notified by your property manager if asbestos is found. If asbestos abatement of damaged or disturbed asbestos-containing materials is required, your property manager and the Asbestos Department will work with you to coordinate a date for abatement. If the abatement is minor (involving less than 10 square feet or 25 linear feet), residents can remain in the apartment but must stay out of the work area. If the abatement is large (involving more than 10 square feet or 25 linear feet), residents must temporarily relocate. The property manager and NYCHA’s relocation staff will assist residents with the temporary relocation, if necessary, including by covering the costs of packing, moving, and unpacking services.

Is it safe to perform minor asbestos abatement in an occupied apartment?

Yes. Asbestos abatement workers follow strict regulations when performing asbestos abatement to ensure that asbestos is not dispersed outside the work area. The abatement area is segregated from occupied/non-abatement areas by constructing an enclosure using plastic sheeting and, in some cases, plywood. Only the certified abatement workers are allowed to enter the abatement area once the project begins.

During the abatement, can asbestos travel to other areas through the ventilation system?

No. During the preparation of the abatement area, any vents connected to the building's ventilation system are sealed. In most cases, the ventilation system in the work area is turned off during the abatement. Thus, protective measures are taken to prevent asbestos from traveling to areas outside of the containment area.

Are my children safe if they are home when minor abatement is performed in my apartment?

Yes. If the abatement is minor and you remain in the apartment, an abundance of environmental health and safety measures are taken to ensure all areas in the work area are protected and that residents are not exposed to any asbestos. This includes restricting access to the work area with caution tape and creating an isolation barrier with plastic sheeting or plywood around the work area.

Have the asbestos abatement workers been trained in asbestos?

Yes, the asbestos abatement workers (NYCHA staff as well as NYCHA contractors) are trained and certified by all required regulatory agencies.

How do we know that the area is safe after an asbestos abatement?

For minor abatement (less than 10 square feet or 25 linear feet), the area is cleaned. For larger abatement, asbestos abatement regulations require a third-party laboratory to conduct air clearance testing after the area has been cleaned up and before the area may be re-occupied. Testing is conducted on-site, and test reports are available from the abatement contractor.

What happens to the asbestos that is removed?

While still in the abatement area, the contractors place the wet asbestos debris in thick (“6 mil”) bags. Before bringing them out of the abatement area, the sealed 6-mil bags of debris are washed and then placed in secondary bags with a label noting that they contain asbestos material, the address they came from, and the contractor’s name. The sealed bags are then removed from the work area, placed on a truck, and transported to a secure landfill that accepts asbestos waste. This disposal process complies with regulatory requirements.

Will NYCHA staff be on-site during an asbestos abatement?

Yes, NYCHA staff will be on-site during the abatement to check on the abatement work in the apartment.

How are residents notified of asbestos work in their building?

If the asbestos abatement is part of a large project, NYCHA is required to post a notice of abatement in the building lobby at least seven days before the work is scheduled to take place. These notices provide residents with information regarding the asbestos work to be performed and who is doing the work. In addition, at least 48 hours before the abatement, notice is provided to the adjacent apartments. For abatement in individual apartments, NYCHA will notify and coordinate directly with the resident.

What if I have additional questions?

If you have any additional questions, please contact your property management office or call the Customer Contact Center at (718) 707-7771.