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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is asbestos?
    Asbestos is the common name for a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers which are known for their high tensile strength and thermal insulating properties. Asbestos is commonly found in heating system insulation, vinyl floor tiles and sheet flooring, roofing paper and shingles, cement siding shingles, and a variety of other building construction products.
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  • Why is asbestos a problem?
    When asbestos is disturbed, it can break down into microscopic fibers that may become airborne. Once airborne, these fibers can be inhaled and trapped in the lungs, posing a health threat. Breathing asbestos can cause respiratory diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest cavity lining. Generally speaking, the symptoms of asbestos-caused diseases do not appear until 10-35 years after exposure. More detailed information can be found on:
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  • What is friable asbestos?
    Asbestos material that can be crushed, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure, when dry, is referred to as friable asbestos. Asbestos material that does not crush or pulverize under hand pressure, when dry, is referred to as non-friable asbestos. Friable asbestos is of greatest concern, because it has the potential to release fibers to the air and surrounding surfaces where it may then result in human exposure.
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  • In New Hampshire, where were asbestos products made?
    In New Hampshire, asbestos-containing products were manufactured for many years in Nashua, Meredith, and Tilton. In Meredith, the Keasbey & Mattison company operated an asbestos plant from the 1930's until 1962 when the plant was purchased by Amatex. Amatex continued to make asbestos products at the plant until late 1982. In Tilton, the Quinn-T manufacturing facility produced asbestos paper products for many years. In Nashua, from approximately 1900 until 1985, asbestos-containing building materials were produced at a plant on Bridge Street, owned and operated by the Johns-Manville Corporation.
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  • Where did New Hampshire asbestos manufacturers dump their waste?
    Asbestos-containing waste from the Nashua plant was delivered for free to area property owners for use as fill. As a result, many residential, commercial, industrial, and public properties in the city of Nashua and the nearby town of Hudson are filled with asbestos waste. At the Tilton plant site, the company landfilled asbestos waste in two separate areas on the property. Those areas are no longer in use and are capped with soil materials. In Meredith, asbestos waste was disposed of at the town landfill, which is now closed and capped. The existence of other dump sites in Tilton and Meredith, if any, is not known.
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  • What does the asbestos waste look like at the Nashua/Hudson sites?
    The asbestos waste dumped in Nashua and Hudson is in a variety of forms, including: pellets; spheres; whole sheets (4' x 8') and scraps/fragments of sheets resembling "cement board"; rolled sheets; dewatered sludge; and waste from dust collection systems, referred to as "baghouse" waste. It may be gray, white, black, green, or reddish in color. After being in the soil for many years, it has a tendency to blend with its surrounding and can be hard to distinguish from clean soil. This is most often the case with "baghouse" waste, which is a fine, dust-like material.

    See also Section II of the Guidance for Managing Asbestos Disposal Sites.

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  • What are the exposure pathways of concern?
    Inhalation is the primary exposure route of concern, because breathing asbestos fibers may cause them to become trapped in the lungs. Ingestion is another pathway of concern, because swallowing asbestos fibers may also cause the fibers to be trapped in body tissues. Asbestos is not absorbed through the skin, so merely touching it does not pose a significant risk to human health. However, if skin, clothing, tools, machinery, or other items become contaminated with asbestos fibers, the fibers can be inadvertently carried into the home or elsewhere, where they may become airborne or contaminate other surfaces through direct contact. Therefore, all surfaces that come in contact with asbestos waste, including skin and clothing, should be decontaminated to prevent more widespread contamination.

    Asbestos fibers are not water soluble and do not move through groundwater to any appreciable extent. Based on studies of other insoluble particles of similar size, the expected migration rate of an asbestos fiber through soils by the forces of groundwater is approximately 1 to 10 centimeters (0.4 to 4 inches) per 3,000 to 40,000 years. Thus, asbestos is not considered a groundwater contaminant.

    Although asbestos does not move with groundwater flow, it can move with surface water flow. Therefore, if asbestos waste is allowed to come in contact with rivers, wetlands and other surface water bodies, fibers may be transported to places that will result in human exposure, including intakes for drinking water supplies and recreation areas.

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  • How can the risk of exposure be minimized at inactive asbestos disposal sites?
    To minimize the potential for asbestos fibers to be released from an inactive asbestos disposal site, you should properly cover the waste and avoid disturbing it. If it must be disturbed, the work must be done in accordance with state and federal requirements by licensed contractors Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol.
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  • What should I do if I think I have been exposed to asbestos?
    Contact your physician for a baseline physical and professional advice. Also, be advised that smoking, combined with asbestos exposure, substantially increases your risk of developing respiratory illness.
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  • What do I do if I find asbestos waste dumped on the ground?
    Do not disturb the material. Report the finding to your local health officer, who can provide further guidance.



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NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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