Friability and Asbestos

In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, uses of asbestos in home construction was common. Because of its high tensile strength and resistant properties, thousands of asbestos products have been used widely in the construction industry, especially during this time period. As more and more of these homes are being renovated, the risk of exposure to asbestos is a reality that construction workers, homeowners and do-it-yourselfers should be aware of. Preventing exposure during asbestos disposal begins with understanding the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos.

When asbestos is friable, it exists in a form that can easily be broken into pieces, releasing fibers into the air. Acoustical plaster, asbestos paper, pipe coverings, insulation, and asbestos -containing patching compounds are all examples of friable asbestos. Non-friable asbestos, on the other hand, are not easy to break, and as a result, the asbestos fibers are less likely to be released into the air. When left undisturbed, non-friable asbestos may not endanger human health. That’s why asbestos experts advise that certain asbestos containing materials be left alone when remodeling rather than being removed. Examples of non-friable asbestos products include roofing felt, asbestos cement, vinyl flooring, and base flashing.

The EPA identifies two categories of non-friable asbestos. Category 1 non-friable have a binding material that locks the fibers together, and are therefore not likely to become friable. Category 2 non-friable materials, though, are more subject to damage by frequent use and natural deterioration over time. Category 2 non-friable materials are more likely to become friable due to weathering conditions. However, circumstances can also influence whether an asbestos-containing material can become friable during demolition or construction. These factors involve methods of ventilation, demolition and asbestos disposal, as well as how the material itself was made.  The EPA website has guidelines for how to address both  friable and non-friable materials. For more information about asbestos and mesothelioma, visit Mesothelioma FAQ

 

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