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Occupational & Environmental Epidemiology

Naturally Occurring Asbestos

Naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) is the name for a group of fibrous minerals that occur naturally in soil and ultramafic rock formations.

Is NOA present in North Carolina?

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has currently identified NOA locations in the western part of the state. Although there are no current active asbestos mines in North Carolina today, there are other active sites that mine other minerals which could contain asbestos. These areas are identified as either a mine, a potential mine, or naturally exposed rock formations.

How can naturally occurring asbestos affect my health?

Exposure to asbestos can cause some types of lung cancer as well as mesothelioma (cancer of the tissue covering the internal organs). Asbestos enters your body by breathing in asbestos fibers. Once asbestos fibers are caught in the lungs, they remain there permanently.

If naturally occurring asbestos is not disturbed and fibers are not released into the air, then it is not a health risk.

What are some ways in which I might disturb naturally occurring asbestos material?

  • Leaf blowing in areas where bare soil is known to contain NOA.
  • Hammering, chiseling and sifting while gem hunting in areas known to contain NOA.
  • Using machinery to plow or plant large tracts of land with NOA in the soil.
  • Drilling into asbestos rock formations with heavy equipment.
  • Grading, landscaping or excavating soil containing NOA.
  • Removing known NOA material and transporting the material to other locations.

What are some steps I can take to prevent exposure to naturally occurring asbestos?

  • Leave NOA in place and undisturbed.
  • Limit dust-generating activities by wetting the area with water prior to and during the activity.
  • Cover or cap NOA material with three to six inches of soil that contains less than 0.25 percent asbestos (Note: other materials may be also substituted in place of soil).
  • Maintain the area covered with plants to prevent erosion.

How can I determine if naturally occurring asbestos is in my area?

What do I do if my construction, drilling, landscaping or other activity occurs in an area where naturally occurring asbestos or ultramafic rock formations are known to exist?

Activities that could disturb naturally occurring asbestos include the cutting of new roads, excavation, chipping or hammering on rocks containing asbestos, sifting dry materials and/or other activities that may cause the release of asbestos fibers into the air. It is important to determine whether naturally occurring asbestos is present before conducting such activities. If a site is found to contain asbestos, steps should be taken to minimize exposure to the public and workers.

Health hazard mitigation and regulation for asbestos (naturally occurring and otherwise) is administered by the Asbestos Hazard Management Program (AHMP) of the N.C. Division of Public Health, (919) 707-5950.

Additional Information for the General Public

Additional Information for Contractors