Asbestos is used in a variety of commercial products and may be potentially contained in cement products, acoustical plastic, fireproofing textiles, wall board, ceiling tiles, vinyl floor tiles, thermal insulation and other similar construction materials. The EPA has grouped asbestos-containing material (ACM) into three categories: sprayed- or troweled-on materials on ceilings, walls, and other surfaces; insulation on pipes, boilers, tanks and other equipment; and other miscellaneous products such as ceiling tiles, floor tiles, and wall boards. Each of these materials is further classified as either friable or non-friable.

Friable material is one that can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by the application of hand pressure. A non-friable material is one that is bound tightly in a matrix and, therefore, difficult to crumble and/or release dust. Friable ACM are more likely than non-friable ACM to release fibers when disturbed or damaged and, therefore, possess a potential health hazard. Although non-friable ACM are not usually an immediate concern when undisturbed, they should not be ignored. Fibers may be released if non-friable ACM are cut, drilled, sanded, or broken during building repairs or renovation. Under existing legislation, commercial and/or industrial building owners and managers may be required to inspect or remove ACM from a building. The human health liabilities and the disclosure requirements associated with the presence of asbestos have prompted many owners to perform surveys and conduct abatement operations.