Asbestos is actually a group of naturally-occurring minerals that usually are resistant to heat, fire, and electricity. Because of that asbestos was once widely used in many industries, including the construction industry. However, exposure to asbestos is known to cause various illnesses and diseases, that includes cancer and asbestosis.
According to the report of the World Health Organization, more than 90,000 people die globally each year from asbestos-related diseases. But many people often discover asbestos in their homes during renovation works or repairs.
That is why homeowners with properties that were built decades ago might be wondering “what does asbestos look like?”. Because we might not know that our house contains asbestos. And you should also remember that asbestos was used for so many purposes within a home.
In this article, we have discussed what does asbestos look like because homeowners need to know how to identify asbestos in their homes. Also, here we have covered where you could find asbestos in your home and what you should do if you found asbestos during your home renovation.
So, let’s get started.
Where You Can Find Asbestos In Your Home
First, you should give a closer look at those areas of your home where asbestos might be present. However, asbestos could be present in your every room, mainly depending on the year it was built.
And due to asbestos cement, it could also be present within your walls and outbuildings. Sometimes, asbestos can be found in your roof, floor, and ceiling tiles.
It might also form some parts of the loose insulation in your loft or in insulating boards, and cladding. Also, other locations may include downpipes, electrical panels, rainwater goods, sink pads, pipe lagging, partitions, and toilet seats.
And sometimes asbestos might come in the form of spray coating. Because it was often used for insulation and also to protect steel from fire and it is generally whiter in color, but, it could have been painted.
However, depending on several factors such as the type of asbestos found in your home, its condition, and the nature of the work you are doing, sometimes it is not necessary to remove the material from your home.
Because in certain situations, you should leave the asbestos where it is and cover it with a protective layer. And this is really cost-effective and you can easily do it with little disturbance.
What Does Asbestos Look Like
As homeowners, sometimes we might not know that our house actually contains asbestos. And if you want to know, there are several different types of asbestos, which generally come in different colors. So, here is what does asbestos look like and it can be hard to know exactly where it is.
1. Crocidolite Asbestos
Crocidolite asbestos is generally known as the most hazardous of all types of asbestos. It was mainly used to insulate steam engines and in spray-on coatings, plastics, cement products, and pipe insulation. And its fibers are extremely thin and they can be identified by their blue color.
Asbestos has some distinguishable features, but an analysis of its appearance generally requires the help of a microscope, which can show its color and shape properly.
Because asbestos can easily break down into so small particles that its fibers could not be seen by the naked eye.
2. Amosite Asbestos
Amosite asbestos is the second most commonly-used asbestos in the United States. And it is brown in color and also poses a greater risk of cancer than other types of asbestos.
This type of asbestos was mainly used in cement sheets, pipe insulation, thermal insulation products, insulation boards, and ceiling tiles.
And the size of asbestos fibers is generally 0.1 to 10 μm in length. That is why asbestos is only visible if it is in groups or clumps and the individual fibers are too small to see without a microscope.
3. Chrysotile Asbestos
Chrysotile is one of the most commonly used asbestos, which is white in color with a layered structure and curly fibers. It is generally found on roofs, ceilings, walls, and floors in homes. Also, buildings were once built with materials that contain chrysotile asbestos.
And this type of asbestos was mainly used in brake linings, gaskets, and boiler seals, and also insulation for pipes, ducts, and other appliances.
Also, chrysotile asbestos is made up of soft and flexible fibers and generally causes less damage to our body tissue than other types of asbestos, but, they are still extremely dangerous to our health and should always be avoided.
4. Non-Friable Asbestos
When you are trying to identify asbestos, you can check how easy it crumbles to determine whether it is friable or non-friable asbestos. Non-friable asbestos usually does not crumble easily as friable asbestos does.
Non-friable asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are generally quite difficult to crumble and it is really important to know these differences. Because non-friable asbestos-containing materials are still commonly found in production.
And as non-friable ACMs generally have a bonding agent that contains asbestos, there is a much lower risk of releasing these toxic minerals into the air and posing danger to humans.
But they still remain a threat to us, mainly when they end up getting crushed or broken during a remodeling project or for other reasons.
5. Friable Asbestos
Friable asbestos generally crumbles more easily and falls apart under slight pressure. That is why friable asbestos-containing materials crumble more easily than non-friable types.
And they are now regulated due to their release of asbestos fibers into the air and associated risks. But they can still be found today because they were regularly added to different materials prior to regulation.
Friable asbestos is generally found in various products like thermal insulation for pipes, ceiling tiles, joint compounds, insulation for water heaters, plasters, and wallboards.
As they can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder only by hand pressure, they pose a huge risk to those people who are exposed to them.
However, you should remember that non-friable asbestos-containing materials can become friable if broken down or subjected to certain conditions.
What Steps You Should Take If You Find Asbestos During Your Home Renovation
If you find asbestos during your home renovation, you should take several steps to ensure the safety of your family and minimize exposure during the asbestos removal process. So, here are the steps you can take.
1. Contact A Professional
As it was so commonly used just a few decades ago, asbestos can be easily found in many older homes or buildings. So, you need to know what you should do in these kinds of circumstances.
After finding asbestos in your home, the first thing you should do is to call a professional. Then, they would take a look and test the materials for harmful minerals. Because testing is the only method to confirm the presence of asbestos in an area.
Professionals who are usually trained to handle asbestos-containing materials without spreading them test for asbestos. Depending on the situation, asbestos removal might be required before construction work can resume.
And when everything is completely evaluated or tested, they would recommend you an action plan to either remove or repair the asbestos in your home. Because asbestos might be useful in different industries, but asbestos exposure is highly toxic.
That is why between 12,000 and 15,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-related diseases. And the main reason for asbestos-related death is lung cancer.
2. Asbestos Repair Or Removal
Asbestos repair is usually one of the most preferred methods for handling asbestos because it involves the least amount of risk. A professional will generally conduct a repair either through encapsulation.
This means coating with a sealant to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne or enclosure which means covering with airtight material to prevent the release of asbestos fibers in the air.
Most homeowners who find asbestos in their homes use the asbestos removal method only when all other methods have not worked for them.
Because the asbestos removal process often causes asbestos fibers to become airborne within the home, which can pose serious health risks.
But trained or skilled professionals generally follow some strict guidelines to ensure the safe removal of asbestos. It includes sealing off the area in your home before disposing of it in a sealed dumpster or at any approved place.
And throughout the whole process, professionals would wear protective gear and respirators, and the whole work area will have HEPA filters to clean the air completely.
Also, these authorized professionals will handle the total cleanup process and re-evaluate the area before homeowners return.
Effects Of Asbestos Exposure
Exposure to asbestos is generally linked to various illnesses and diseases that include mesothelioma, pleural effusions, and asbestosis.
Because when you disturb products that contain asbestos, then tiny fibers are generally released into the air. And when inhaled, they can easily become trapped in the lungs and cause health complications.
Asbestos fibers can gradually accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation of the lungs which can lead to serious health problems. However, everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time because of its low-level presence in the air and water.
But only those people who are exposed to asbestos on a regular basis or in higher quantities can suffer from illnesses and diseases.
If you are thinking that you have been exposed to asbestos, first you should immediately consult your doctor. Because they can help you to determine your risk of developing an illness related to asbestos exposure.
And if you only had a brief or one-time exposure to asbestos, then there is very less chance of any major issues. However, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor to avoid any risk.
Is It Possible To Identify Asbestos By Smell
In some cases, you can determine that your home is contaminated by the smell because gas leaks and some kinds of mold cause noticeable odors.
However, asbestos does not have a noticeable smell. That is why rooms with asbestos built into the floors, walls, and ceiling do not have a detectable odor.
And even heavy amounts of asbestos dust are odorless or just smell like normal dust. So, you can’t identify which materials are contaminated with asbestos just by the smell. However, people generally inhale tiny asbestos particles which are nearly invisible through the nose or mouth.
Then, inside our body, these tiny particles usually attach to tissues in the chest or lungs. But, when it enters our body, there is no surgery or other technique that can remove asbestos from our body.
That is why if you are not sure about whether or not asbestos is present in your home, you should leave it alone and look for professional advice.
Wrap Up On What Does Asbestos Look Like
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what does asbestos look like, however, the above information can definitely help you. The most important thing is that if you find out any asbestos in your home, you should leave it alone and call a professional for assistance.
And you should remember that DIY removal of asbestos is not recommended and can be extremely dangerous.
Homeowners who have found asbestos in their homes should contact authorized professionals to solve the issue. But if you know how to identify asbestos, then it can help you make your home safer to live in.
We hope that our detailed and informative article has helped you to know what asbestos looks like. If you have any questions or doubts in your mind about this topic, please leave a message in the comments below.
FAQ: What Does Asbestos Look Like
As asbestos fibers are generally microscopic, they can easily be airborne for days without being detected or noticed and can cause serious health issues, if they are inhaled into a person’s lungs. That is why many people have different questions and we have tried to answer them here.
Q1. What Happens If You Breathe In Asbestos Once?
Ans: In some cases, it is definitely possible to develop an illness such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural effusions, or lung cancer after only a one-time exposure to asbestos if the exposure was significant enough to cause asbestos particles lodging in the body’s tissues.
Q2. Can You Clean Asbestos From Lungs?
Ans: Actually, no known method exists to remove asbestos fibers from our lungs once they are inhaled. However, there are some types of asbestos that are cleared naturally by the lungs or break down in the lungs.
Q3. Are There Immediate Signs Of Asbestos Exposure?
Ans: There are usually no known short-term side effects of asbestos exposure, which means that even breathing in high amounts of asbestos does not cause any immediate symptoms. And the long-term health effects of asbestos exposure usually take years or sometimes decades to develop and the earliest sign is generally shortness of breath.