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Asbestos Testing During Mold Remediation

mold on drywall

After mold has been discovered, the primary concern of the property owner is to have remediation. One potential hazard that is often overlooked is the presence of asbestos in the materials that are being remediated. While the EPA has created the RRP Rule (Renovation, Repair, and Painting) to educate contractors about accidentally disturbing lead paint, there is no such rule in regards to asbestos.

Common Remediation Methods

The general rule of the thumb of mold remediation is to physically remove the mold growth. This is usually done by the following methods: cutting out and removing porous materials (e.g. drywall), wire brushing or using sandpaper on semi-porous materials (e.g. wood or some forms of plaster), or wiping down and HEPA vacuuming non-porous surfaces (e.g. concrete). While wood and concrete typically are not associated as asbestos-containing materials; drywall and plaster are. In the haste of removing mold-damaged materials, a contractor may be spreading asbestos fibers throughout the property.

Asbestos Containing Materials and Remediation

Asbestos-containing materials can be divided up into two categories; friable and non-friable. Friable refers to materials that can be crumbled into a powder with hand pressure. Drywall and plaster both meet the criteria for friable. Plaster, drywall, and associated tape & joint compound may contain asbestos in buildings constructed before the late 1970s. Improper removal of asbestos-containing materials by non-licensed asbestos professionals may lead to an accidental release of asbestos fibers.

Remediation Considerations

Much mold remediation and professional drying is done without formal containment and negative air pressures.  Certainly disturbing asbestos in these situations is a hazard to both workers and occupants. But what if the mold or drying work is done with proper engineering controls?  While an argument can be made that there is little health risk for asbestos if mold remediation is being conducted in a containment area under negative air pressure similar to asbestos abatement, there are still concerns present The first concern with this argument is mold remediation personal protection equipment (PPE) is different than asbestos PPE. Many mold remediation contractors wear a half face N95 respirator, while many asbestos workers wear full-face P100 respirators which provide more respiratory protection. Another issue is that if asbestos is unknowingly disturbed, there is no ongoing air quality monitor that can determine what is the airborne concentration for asbestos fibers. Mold clearance air samples are not able to determine if asbestos is airborne. Lastly, while mold debris can be disposed of as general waste, there are special protocols that taken with asbestos debris which determine how the material is contained and which landfill it is taken to.


When dealing with older homes and buildings, it is imperative that mold remediation contractors have a suspect material tested by a licensed asbestos inspector such as Indoor Science prior to remediation activities as it may lead to an accidental asbestos release. By disturbing an asbestos-containing material, the contractors may be held legally liable for any damages caused and may face fines and penalties from local, state, and federal agencies.

Furthermore, property owners should perform an inspection to know which materials contain asbestos.  If there is an unexpected emergency such as a flood or mold problem, they will know to warn any contractors to avoid asbestos fibers being spread throughout.

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”

4 thoughts on “Asbestos Testing During Mold Remediation

    My CAC said there is a NEW EPA law that mandates all years of buildings, old or new, pre-1978 or post to be tested for asbestos.

    Hello Richard,

    All public, commercial, and residential properties of 4 or more units are subject to NESHAP regulation unless the architect has a letter stating that the building was built without asbestos-containing materials along with the proper documentation. NESHAP does not regulate residential dwellings with less than 4 units although local regulations may apply to them.

    I moved into an apartment where the management said “everything is new”. 1 month later is notice that every time I entered the apartment i would start itching. I suspected the “new” a/c unit was the culprit. After 2 weeks of complaining (with photos) they replaced the a/c unit but I still was itching to the point of tears. The I noticed a large slab of mold in the closet. It was white,green,brown,and black in color. I took a week or so for them to treat it. the were to do 2 treatments back to back. One treatment was done, The mold grew back, Finally, 2 weeks later, they treated the mold again. I told the construction manage and he had the crew cow and cut out the wall. They didn’t clean up after removing/replacing the wall. Another 2 weeks passed and I saw one of the electricians whom I had befriended. He started laughing at me because I was wearing a breathing mask. He asked me why I was wearing the mask and I replied that I think all this dust from construction is making me sick. Then he asked what floor I lived on and I told him. He said that he was talking to a worker who stated that a slab of asbestos was just removed from my apartment. Long story short….i am experiencing horrible itching when i lay on my be and when i get up in the morning. Taking 8 benadryls and Xytec like candy, do you have any suggestions. I cant move out because i have no car and my money is short. Is there any way I can get an inspector to check for asbestos? I need help. I haven’t slept for months.

    Hello Terry,

    Based on the symptoms you described it is unlikely that asbestos is causing allergic reactions. Asbestos-related illness is typically related to the respiratory system and takes about 10-30 years after exposure to become apparent. I would recommend conducting mold and indoor air quality testing since fungal growth was observed in the space. Also, I would consult with the management company to refer an records they have of asbestos abatement or asbestos clearance testing in the unit.