Any asbestos-containing materials that are fragile in nature fall under this category. These products at their dry state can be easily powdered without applying too much pressure. So, using your bare hands should be more than enough to crush it. When friable asbestos products are disturbed, it will release fibres into the air that can be inhaled and can cause serious health problems (which we’re going to discuss later). Overall, this type of asbestos is more dangerous; it should be contained properly and best left untouched. Some examples of friable asbestos are:
- Paper Products
- Vinyl Sheets
- Patching Compounds
- Asbestos Clothing (fire blankets)
- Sprayed Insulation
- Friable lagging
The second type of asbestos product is stronger and more durable in nature as the mineral is firmly bonded to the material. You need considerable pressure or force to destroy these products and reduce them into powder form. Even if an asbestos-containing material gets broken, it only releases minimal amounts of fibre into the air. So, as long as nobody intentionally breaks or damages the product, it does not pose any significant health risk. Some examples of non-friable asbestos are:
- Cement compounds and products
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Asbestos corrugated roofing
- Ceiling tiles
It should be taken into consideration that almost all non-friable products can become friable. This transition happens due to abrasion, fire damage, weathering, chemical treatment, and, of course, old age. The best examples are:
- Old, rusted, and damaged corrugated roofing
- Broken cement walls
Identifying Asbestos – What it Looks Like and How to Confirm
Now that you know what asbestos is and its two major types, the next challenge is identifying them. First and foremost, you should be aware by now that at present, asbestos-containing materials are no longer available for you or anyone else to purchase. It is banned and will remain that way due to its health risk which greatly outweighs its benefits. However, since before 2003, it was still available. Most houses at that time were almost always constructed using asbestos-containing products.
For starters, you should know what asbestos looks like in its raw form. In general, the most common ones you’ll see are Amosite (brown), Crocidolite (blue), and Chrysotile (white). They appear as a thin fibrous fuzz or strands. These fibres, when present in the air, can be seen by the naked eye and should only be approached by a professional.
As a general guide, if you’ve purchased a house (or plan on buying one) that was built before 2003, it is likely that asbestos products were used and there is a significant risk of exposure.
Even if you can’t identify any asbestos-related materials, you must assume that there may be some present as a precautionary measure. To make sure, always ask for professional assistance and call a consultant to inspect the house and get it tested. Laboratory testing is the only means to confirm the presence of asbestos accurately.
Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos is toxic to humans and considered a carcinogenic substance. Though it has impressive enhancement capabilities to other materials, inhaling this substance can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other respiratory health problems.
There has been a case study that 208 out of 1047 employees who directly dealt with asbestos in significant amounts died from malignant tumours. The tumours were all found in their respiratory system.
The reason why it causes such a problem is due to its sheer durability. It does not dissolve on its own even after extended periods of time. Thus, your body will have a hard time removing it. It will stay for long durations in your respiratory system when inhaled.
Asbestos is a natural mineral and is present in a lot of places, but only in minute amounts which do not pose any health risks.