How to Identify Asbestos

Even today, decades after most uses of asbestos in the U.S. were suspended, we’re still warned to “watch out” for the toxic material. But chances are few of us really know what to watch out for or how to identify asbestos or asbestos materials in our home or at other locations we frequent.

But identifying asbestos materials is indeed ultra-important, especially if one is undertaking a DIY project or other chore that might put them face-to-face with hazardous products.

Identify Asbestos tilesHandling asbestos improperly can literally mean the difference between life and death. While that might sound dramatic, it’s true. Experts say that even a minuscule amount of exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of diseases like mesothelioma.

So, how do you keep yourself and others safe and how do you recognize toxic asbestos materials?

Visual Identification

Experts point out that most asbestos products are visually obvious, not only because many are labeled as such but also because there were never any “look-alike” products that resembled asbestos.

Hence, if you know what the fiber looks like, chances are you can identify it. Of course, that means doing a little research before you begin any demolition or renovation projects.

There are a number of helpful online guides that can assist you in identifying commonly-used products – particularly building products – that once contained asbestos.

Many of these guides include not only names of asbestos-containing products and their manufacturers but also photographs that can be used for comparison purposes.

Lists of Common Asbestos-containing Products

If you know there’s a possibility you could encounter asbestos products (i.e. you’re working on a house built in 1940) it’s wise to do some reading as to what kinds of products once included asbestos.

This way, as you approach these items you’ll stop and take a close look before simply tearing out these materials with little regard for your health or that of others.

Some products that should be of concern include:

  • Floor tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Shingles
  • Siding
  • Textured paint
  • Drywall tape
  • Glues and mastics
  • Sealers
  • Insulation
  • Cement

Also read about what manufacturers most often included asbestos in their products and during what years those products contained the hazardous mineral.

What to Do if you See Asbestos

Identify AsbestosIf you believe you have indeed identified asbestos materials in your home or elsewhere on the job, it’s time to address the handling of these materials. A good rule of thumb is to simply STOP any work in the vicinity and call a licensed asbestos inspector.

Yes, you’ll need to spend some money to hire an inspector, but it will be dollars well spent to protect your health and the health of others.

Remember, not all asbestos materials are dangerous. If the materials are in good condition, haven’t been damaged, and aren’t crumbling due to age, they may be able to be left “as is” and simply monitored in the future.

Some asbestos materials can be encapsulated so that they do not cause a problem but will not need to be removed. This process is generally less expensive than abatement and is often a good option.

However, you may encounter old “friable” asbestos that needs to be removed and doing so MUST be done by someone with abatement experience. Again, it can be an expensive proposition but removing asbestos on your own is never a wise idea