The potential harm that can be caused by asbestos is something that every person should recognize. While its use is strictly regulated, there are still ways in which a person could get exposed to this substance.

asbestos roof tile that has become degraded to release the fibers

To prevent exposure and the harm that can occur, you should try to know a little bit about asbestos, how it can affect you and where the potential for exposure exists. One significant fact of asbestos is the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos.

What is Friable Asbestos?

Friable asbestos is the term used for any asbestos containing material that can be crushed, crumbled, pulverized or turned to powder with the ordinary force of a human hand. Friable is a word used to describe anything that easily crumbles, so the term in and of itself tells you what to expect with friable asbestos.

Any material that is friable and containing more than 1% asbestos will be considered a Regulated Asbestos-Containing Material. Many of the uses for friable asbestos were banned under EPA regulation in 1978.

However, products that already contained the material were allowed to remain on the market and you can still find many of these items still in use today.

Examples of Friable Asbestos

Prior to regulation, friable asbestos materials were very common. You could find friable asbestos in products like the thermal insulation for pipes, the insulation for a water heater, joint compounds, ceiling tiles, different types of plasters and wallboards.

As mentioned above, many of these uses have been eliminated, but many older homes will still have products that contain a friable asbestos material.

The Difference Between Friable and Non-Friable Asbestos

If being friable means that something crumbles easily, then when something is described as non-friable, then that means that it is a material that does not crumble easily. Now, that is a good simple understanding of the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos, but there is more to it than that.

From a legal standpoint, the difference is that friable asbestos is regulated while non-friable is not and because of this, you can still find non-friable asbestos materials still in production today.

The only cases in which non-friable ACMs are regulated is when the material has been eroded, processed in a way that could release the asbestos or if the material is likely to be subject to conditions that could cause it to crumble or turn to powder. From a practical standpoint, the difference is that non-friable asbestos contains some type of bonding agent that contains the asbestos.

The reason that these materials are still allowed on the market is because there is a reduced threat of the asbestos being released from the material and posing a threat to humans. However, there is still the potential for exposure with a non-friable ACM.

During a remodeling job, the materials can get crushed, broken or destroyed. If this happens, the asbestos can be released from the material and pose a threat.

How to Handle Friable Asbestos-Containing Material

Non-friable asbestos can become friable if it is disturbed in certain ways or if it is subject to the right conditions. If this happens, then it could be a potential harm to people that share an environment with the material. If an asbestos containing material becomes friable, then steps need to be taken to prevent exposure.

Short of removing the friable asbestos from the area, there are a few steps that could be taken to prevent exposure. The first would be to enclose the material in some sort of airtight material, like wrapping it in plastic or placing a permanent covering over the material. Secondly, you could also apply a new bonding agent to make the ACM less friable.

Get Professional Help

If you believe that your home may have a friable asbestos-containing material, it is not safe to try to remove the material on your own. The first thing to do is to hire a qualified technician to test the home for asbestos. If it is found that your home needs asbestos removal, then you should hire a certified contractor to remove and dispose of the material.

Many ACMs are safe when they are handled correctly and used for their intended purposes, but people always need to be aware that the potential for contamination does exist.

With exposure to asbestos posing a serious risk to the health of an individual, it is important for people to understand where asbestos may be and what type of risk may come with the different materials. Remember, the safe level of asbestos exposure is zero.