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  • ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN BUILDINGS - home - CONTENTS: asbestos exposure hazard sources, visual identification of asbestos. Asbestos safety advice & asbestos hazard reduction. Asbestos cleanup advice. Certification & Licensing for Asbestos Abatement, Removal, & Cleanup Companies. Are Carbon Nanotube Health Risks Similar to Asbestos? List of major U.S. Asbestos Product Producers & Companies
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about what building materials may contain asbestos, visual identification of asbestos-containing materials in buildings, and possible asbestos material identification by testing, use, age, appearance
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How to recognize asbestos in buildings: here is a visual guide to identifying asbestos in buildings. This article series assists building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify asbestos materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple visual inspection.

In the articles listed below, we provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.

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Guide to Asbestos Identification & Exposure Hazards in Buildings

Asbestos insulation label Johns-Manville Corp (C) Daniel FriedmanAsbestos Fibers, Asbestos Dust & Asbestos-Containing Materials that can be Identified by Visual Inspection

While an expert lab test using polarized light microscopy (and in some cases TEM) may be needed to identify the specific type of asbestos fiber, the percentage content of asbestos in a material, or to identify the presence of asbestos in air or dust samples,

many asbestos-containing building products not only are visually obvious and easy to recognize, but since there were not other look-alike products that were not asbestos, a visual identification of this material can be virtually a certainty in many cases.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Use These Helpful Guides for Visual Identification of Asbestos-Containing Products Found On or In Buildings

Asbestos fibers and dust are not the only indoor air quality particle that is a potential concern in buildings. We have written about the possible irritating and perhaps health concerns associated with fiberglass insulation dust and fragments in buildings

Basic asbestos safety advice

The US EPA indicates that not all asbestos-containing products are dangerous. A health risk exists only when asbestos fibers are released from a product [into the air where they are inhaled for example]. Products that are friable (easily crumbled or made into dust that is easily airborne) are more dangerous than products in which binders immobilize the asbestos fibers.

EPA also indicates that not everyone exposed to asbestos will develop an asbestos-related illness or disease. Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos do not develop asbestos-related health problems. Cigarette smokers are at much higher risk of asbestos-related disease.

Quoting from the US EPA Basic Advice on asbestos in homes:

What if I have asbestos in my home?

The best thing to do is to leave asbestos-containing material that is in good condition alone. If unsure whether or not the material contains asbestos, you may consider hiring a professional asbestos inspector to sample and test the material for you. Before you have your house remodeled, you should find out whether asbestos-containing materials are present.

If asbestos-containing material is becoming damaged (i.e., unraveling, frayed, breaking apart) you should immediately isolate the area (keep pets and children away from the area) and refrain from disturbing the material (either by touching it or walking on it). You should then immediately contact an asbestos professional for consultation.

It is best to receive an assessment from one firm and any needed abatement from another firm to avoid any conflict of interest. In such a scenario as described above, asbestos-containing material does not necessarily need to be removed, but may rather be repaired by an asbestos professional via encapsulation or enclosure. Removal is often unnecessary.

Basic Asbestos Debris Cleanup Advice

In most cases it is safest (and least costly) to leave the asbestos-containing materials alone. For Asbestos handling regulations,
see ASBESTOS MATERIAL REGULATIONS

and ASBESTOS REGULATION Updates.

Friable, damaged asbestos materials in a living area or such materials located where the asbestos is likely to be carried to an occupied space need professional asbestos remediation.

If you are cleaning-up in a building area where asbestos products may have been dislodged, such as a basement where asbestos pipe insulation has fallen to the floor, the US EPA recommends avoiding causing airborne dust and debris - a condition that could be harmful.

  • If hiring a contractor to remove asbestos, the US EPA guidelines for asbestos removal, for protection of the rest of the building, for proper asbestos waste disposal, and any other local or state environmental regulations must be followed. In most areas contractors must be specially licensed to test or remove asbestos from buildings. In some areas it may be legal for a building owner or another contractor to remove asbestos, though still it must be disposed-of legally.
    See ASBESTOS REMOVAL CERTIFICATIONS)
  • Do not run a vacuum cleaner or dry-sweep up asbestos debris that has fallen to the floor - you'll simply cause it to become airborne - a potentially harmful condition. Professional asbestos abatement contractors use a combination of wet mopping and HEPA vacuuming to clean up asbestos from building surfaces.

  • Do not disturb asbestos or asbestos-suspect material if you do not absolutely have to do so

  • Seal the work area off from the rest of the building if asbestos material has to be disturbed. Simple poly plastic sheeting and duct tape may suffice, but be sure the duct tape is adhered continuously to the plastic edges and that it binds securely - else it may be necessary to secure the plastic using nailed-furring strips.

    You don't want your containment barrier to fall down in the middle of a cleanup project. Use an air-lock and change footwear or take similar precautions so that you do not bring asbestos debris into other building areas on your shoes or clothing.

  • Wear an approved respirator, protective clothing, gloves, hat, goggles, that can be disposed-of after the cleanup.

  • Wet the asbestos with a hand sprayer when moving it;

  • Drill or cut only if it is absolutely necessary, then do it outside (and having wet the material)

  • Demolition of asbestos materials during removal should remove the asbestos in the largest feasible pieces, not in many small pieces.

  • Bag the removed asbestos in sealed plastic bags and (according to the EPA) dispose of it in an approved land-fill (check with your community building department and your state environmental regulatory association)

  • Perform a final cleanup of the work area using wet mops, sponges, disposable rags/ wipes. Do not track wet asbestos-contaminated water into other building areas.

-- US EPA. Our list of asbestos information articles is just below.

How to recognize asbestos materials in buildings, Photographs of asbestos in building products, List of asbestos-containing building materials

Are Carbon Nanotube Health Risks Similar to Asbestos?

We are monitoring studies of possible health risks from other products containing carbon nanotubes. The New York Times reported that to date no illnesses have been reported concerning nanotube-containing articles and that current popular consumer products such as tennis rackets that contain nanotubes are of little risk to consumers. But because nanotube-based fibers are very small, they could pose a health risk.

Consumer caution (not fear) are advised. Carbon nanotubes include bundles of fibers that are similar to but more uniform than naturally-occurring asbestos fibers. The Times article "In Study, Researchers Find Nanotubes May Pose Health Risks Similar to Asbestos", New York Times 21 May 2008 p. A-22, reported on an article published at the website of the journal Nature Nanotechnology on 5/21/08.

For details about carbon nanotube health concerns, and health research regarding nanotechnology in industrial or research processes see NANOMATERIALS HAZARDS

Also see Micro-Photographs of Dust from the World Trade Center collapse following the 9/11/01 attack. Links to U.S. government and other authoritative research and advice are included.

Certification & Licensing for Asbestos Abatement, Removal, & Cleanup Companies

Cement asbestos roof shingles (C) Daniel FriedmanAs we discuss at ASBESTOS REMOVAL, Amateur, Incomplete, building owners arranging for asbestos cleanup, or any other environmental cleanup for that matter, should be sure that the company they are using is properly certified, licensed, and that the work is conducted with proper supervision and by workers who themselves are properly trained.

Failure to take these precautions risks serious consequences including contamination of other building areas by asbestos dust and debris, health risks and harm to the cleanup workers themselves, and future health risks and harm to building occupants as well as potential issues should the property later be offered for sale.

Details are at ASBESTOS REMOVAL, Amateur, Incomplete

and ASBESTOS REMOVAL CERTIFICATIONS. Excerpts are below.

Watch out: in 2010 The New York Times reported [paraphrasing from that article] that over a five year period beginning in 2001 hundreds of asbestos-removal training certificates were given to people who had completed no training whatsoever.

... 65 to 80 percent of those receiving certification as qualified asbestos removal experts had not received the necessary training.

An example of a simple asbestos test report from a certified asbestos testing lab is shown in this asbestos test result.

Stuff that is Not Asbestos nor Likely to be Asbestos Containing

Fiberboard insulation used under bowling alley lane (C) InspectAPedia - ACIt will be patently obvious that despite the enormous list of products in which asbestos was used, the list of materials that do not and never did contain asbestos will be still longer - so long we won't attempt to list all such items.

But the question of whether or not certain materials contained harmful levels of asbestos has come up often for certain products.

Those we will describe here.

Reader Question: does the brown insulating board found under bowling alley lane material contain asbestos?

On the underside of bowling lane floors there is a fiberboard type material I believed was used for sound dampening. I've handled and ripped off this material so many times without once thinking what it was- I think I was told it was homosote and harmless. Since many of these bowling lanes were installed many years ago, it worried me even more. Now I'm not so sure what it is and scared at the thought of what it could be.

Also, if you have those names or contact info for anyone who might be willing to test this material for me, that would also be incredibly helpful. I can't thank you enough for your help with this- feel free to call or email me back with any information. - A.S. 11/5/2013

Reply: The material looks like and probably is a wood fiber insulating board - not asbestos-containing. But protect yourself from demolition dust.

The material I can see in your online photos is almost certainly wood fiber based Homasote type insulating board. That is not an asbestos product. You can see more examples of this product
at SHEATHING, FIBERBOARD

If nevertheless you want to have as sample of the material tested for asbestos content, the cost is usually minor - abour $50. U.S. You can use any certified asbestos testing laboratory - and can find one via help given
at ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST.

Details of this question & answer are
at SHEATHING, FIBERBOARD ASBESTOS CONTENT or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

 

 

Continue reading at ASBESTOS PHOTO GUIDE to Materials or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see ASBESTOS LIST of PRODUCTS

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ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN BUILDINGS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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