October 24, 2011

Friable Asbestos and Non-Friable Asbestos

There are two major types of asbestos materials, defined according to the ease of reducing the materials down to basic fibers. The first type of material is known as friable asbestos. Like chalk or clay, these pieces of asbestos cannot withstand much force at all before falling apart. On the other hand, non-friable asbestos, occasionally referred to as encapsulated asbestos, requires a significant amount of damage to the material to prove dangerous.

Friable asbestos proves such a major threat due to its ability to release massive amounts of asbestos fibers into the air when breaking apart. These fibers can enter into the lungs when a person breathes them in, as they can linger in the air like dust or smoke. As a consequence of breathing in these fibers, the damage to the lungs can grow over time to a highly lethal form of cancer known as mesothelioma.

Although many forms of reducible asbestos have been removed from buildings as a major safety precaution, asbestos remains a part of certain products. Included inside boards and roofing materials, asbestos remains useful for its fire resistance. However, this non-friable asbestos is not at all safe. If placed under certain types of stress that can deteriorate the structure of the encapsulated asbestos, including water and humidity damages, fibers may be released into the air. Strong vibrations, often causing grinding, can also have this effect on otherwise safe materials.

The Environmental Protection Agency has noted that there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure. In the rare cases when non-friable asbestos becomes damaged, the released fibers may still trigger serious health concerns for individuals exposed to those materials.