Materials which contain asbestos broadly fall into two categories: friable and non-friable.
Non-friable asbestos encompasses materials in which the asbestos is bonded—firmly bound within the material, therefore unlikely to release any measurable levels of asbestos fibers into the air.
Because of this, there is a much lower risk to the health of those who come into contact with non-friable asbestos materials.
Some examples of non-friable asbestos include vinyl floor tiles—unless the glue is removed, leaving the asbestos exposed—and cement products such as corrugated and flat sheeting used in roofs, walls and ceilings.
Non-friable asbestos is also used in molded items such as downpipes. Asbestos is used in these items because of its ability to resist heat and chemicals as well as its strength.
When left undisturbed, non-friable asbestos products will not release fibers into the air and will only do so when they are disturbed or damaged in some way, such as when an asbestos ceiling tile is drilled through or broken.
What Is Friable Asbestos?
Friable asbestos on the other hand covers materials which contain asbestos which, when dry, can easily be reduced to powder by hand.
Friable means the asbestos is easily crumbled, therefore while sprayed on asbestos insulation is considered highly friable, asbestos floor tiles are not.
This type of asbestos is much more likely to release significant levels of asbestos into the environment when disturbed, therefore are considerably more dangerous to the health of those who could potentially breathe those fibers.
Some examples of friable asbestos-containing materials include: low density boards, thermal lagging, such as pipe insulation, sprayed asbestos fire retardants and sheet vinyl underlay or backing.
Asbestos fibers commonly enter the body through breathing, and, in fact, materials containing asbestos are not considered harmful unless the asbestos fibers are released into the air where they can be ingested or inhaled.
If this is the case, the asbestos fibers become trapped in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat where they can be removed, while others will pass deeply into the lungs, or when ingested, into the digestive tract.
Once these fibers are trapped inside the body, health problems can arise.
Any material which contains more than 1 percent asbestos and is friable is considered a Regulated Asbestos-Containing Material; under 1978 EPA regulations, many uses for friable asbestos were banned.
Products which already contained friable asbestos were allowed to remain on the market, however prior to this regulation, it was common to find friable asbestos materials.
These products included thermal pipe insulation, water heater insulation, plaster, wallboard, ceiling tiles and joint compounds.
In short, friable asbestos can be dangerous to the health of humans, and is highly regulated, while under normal circumstances non-friable asbestos is not considered dangerous to the health of humans, therefore is not highly regulated.
Health Effects of Friable Asbestos
The body is unable to break asbestos fibers down or remove them once they have entered the lungs or other body tissues.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis.
Asbestosis is a serious, chronic respiratory disease.
While asbestosis is non-cancerous, in advanced stages, cardiac failure can result from the disease.
Lung cancer results in the largest number of asbestos-related deaths, with those involved in mining, milling and manufacturing where friable asbestos exposure is more common being much more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population.
Mesothelioma is a much rarer form of cancer which occurs in the then membrane linings of the abdomen, chest, lungs, and occasionally the heart.
Virtually every case of mesothelioma is linked to exposure to asbestos, with about 2 percent of all miners and textile workers contracting mesothelioma and about 10 percent of those involved in manufacturing asbestos-containing gas masks contracting mesothelioma.
Those who work in shipyards, asbestos factories and mills and asbestos mines are also at a higher risk of contracting mesothelioma.
The likelihood of developing an asbestos-related disease depends on the amount and duration of your asbestos exposure, whether or not you smoke and your age.
Contact Our New Orleans Mesothelioma Attorneys Today
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related disease, we can help.
At Landry & Swarr, our attorneys can help hold negligent employers accountable and pursue maximum compensation, so you have the money you need during this difficult time.