Asbestos usage has been considered key cause of fatal disease such as asbestosis, mesothelioma , lung cancer and many more. As asbestos was part of many common used products in past and was also part of construction industry, most of us are still surrounded by asbestos. You will be amazed that asbestos has been used in producing more than 3,600 different kind of products. For example, if your building was constructed in or before 1980s, it is likely to have asbestos in floor tiles, ceilings, insulations, roof tiles and many other places. Similarly, with lot of electric appliances which were sold at that time and in many cases still are (e.g. brake linings have asbestos). Many countries have banned asbestos and many have limited its usage. USA has done the latter. Thus asbestos is still used in products and appliances.
This might present a grave situation, but it is not so primarily because asbestos when bound is not dangerous. To understand this, one should know that asbestos is dangerous because of its fine fibres which when inhaled cause all the diseases. Thus, if there are no asbestos fibres then asbestos pose no danger as such. This is exactly what makes an asbestos tile in good condition harmless but a broken one dangerous. When tile brakes asbestos fibres might release in air which can be dangerous.
Apart from this some asbestos materials / products have inherently more dangerous than others as they have higher tendency of releasing those fibres. Materials where asbestos fibres can easily break free are called friable materials and the other ones where asbestos is locked are called non friable materials. Friable materials pose significant health risk to exposed people.
Friable materials have high tendency of releasing fibres in air. These materials can be generally crumbled, even by hand. Many materials also become friable after continuous usage, harsh weather conditions, excessive heat etc. Some example of friable materials are – patching compounds (such as spackle), heat insulation materials such as rollboard, flex board, permaboard, fire proofing insulation, boiler insulation, etc. decorative plaster, acoustic plaster, coatings, finishing materials, etc.
Non friable materials
Asbestos is a resilient material and that's the reason why it was used so widely in various products. Non friable materials are products where the asbestos is locked, e.g. in roof tiles, floor tiles, etc. In most of the cases such material cannot be easily crumbled by hand. Even when they are broken, they probability of releasing fibres is low as the fibres are locked with binding material such as cement, resin, etc. But do remember, with continuous stress (mechanical, chemical), harsh weather conditions, physical damages, drilling etc, can convert such material to friable materials. Most common examples include, roofing material (shingles, felt), flooring (vinly flooring, etc.), asbestos cement products such as chimneys, pipes, ducts, etc.
Based on their tendency of converting to friable material when subjected to adverse external factors, these can be categorized into two:
Category 1 non-friable materials : These are the ones which have low tendency of converting to friable compounds unless they are demolished. These have very strong bonding between asbestos and binding material and thus pose little threat in usual conditions. Example of this category are vinyl tiles, roofing felts and shingles (bind using asphalt), etc.
Category 2 non-friable materials : These materials are more prone to be convey to friable when subjected to hash external conditions – weather, heat, stress, etc. Examples of such materials include, portland cement bounded pipes, roof tiles, clap boards, sliding shingles, etc.
What to do next?
The nest step depends a lot on what type of asbestos material one is dealing with. Friable material should be immediately removed using professional asbestos abatement company services. In case the material is not friable, after inspection it can be assessed whether it will requires removal or not. In most cases category 1 should not be touched unless demolition is your plan. In case of category 2, if it is good condition generally no action is required. Bit make sure to get regular inspection done to help keep posted on the condition and probable danger.
It should be always kept in mind that inspection and removal should be done ONLY by professionals. Please do not do these activities on your own, they can be pose grave danger to you and your family's health.