Asbestos comprises a set of six a naturally-occurring silicate minerals with the similar physical structure of forming long, thin, fibrous crystals.  Asbestos has been mined for thousands of years, but increased dramatically in the 19th century when manufacturers used asbestos for its desirable physical properties including sound absorption, resistance to heat, fire and chemical damage and its affordability.  It has been widely used in electrical insulation, building insulation and materials, brake linings and many other applications where it is mixed in with cement or woven into fabrics or other materials. 

Photo of asbestos fibers

What are the Health Effects of Asbestos?

All forms of asbestos are known human lung carcinogens when a person is excessively exposed to the loose  fibers or asbestos dust.  Loose fibers or dust can become airborne and cause exposures in the occupational setting.  Known cases of asbestosis (a lung disease) and  mesothelioma (a specific lung cancer only caused by asbestos) occurred in manufacturing industries in the early 20th century where asbestos was used extensively, such as ship building, or insulation manufacturing.  Because of its health impacts, the US banned asbestos in 1978.   Today, health effects are very rare because asbestos exposure is tightly controlled and managed.  In the U.S.,  asbestos exposure today mainly occurs when people repair or demolish old materials that contained asbestos.  When such work is done, it is tightly controlled and strict rules for exposure control and safety must be followed.

Where is Asbestos Found Today?

While the US banned the manufacture and use of asbestos in 1978, many of the buildings and structures built around and before 1978 still contain asbestos in various building materials, such as: 

  • Acoustical (Popcorn) Ceiling Material     
  • Transite Flue Pipes
  • Thermal Systems Insulation (TSI)
  • Floor Tile and Adhesive
  • Fire Doors
  • Fire Proofing
  • Sheet Flooring Products
  • Gypsum Wallboard Joint Compound or Texturing Materials
  • Roofing Materials
  • Exterior Stucco or siding
  • Transite panels & pipes

As long as the materials are in good shape -- that is they are not flaking, peeling, broken or disintegrating -- there is no exposure to the asbestos fibers within them.  HOWEVER, if you notice building materials in poor condition it needs to be reported immediately to EHS at (415) 338-2565.

Click on this link to view a memo from the Director, Environment, Health, and Safety   to obtain more specific information about asbestos containing materials within SFSU building. 

Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to view this document.  If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, you may download it by clicking on the Acrobat Reader icon.  Download Adobe Acrobat Reader