Although you may think that asbestos is an inherently dangerous product, it can be very helpful as an insulator as well. The degree of hazard surrounding asbestos depends on whether or not it is friable. This affects the amount of asbestos that you are likely to inhale or ingest, when it can cause cancer in your body.
Asbestos is a silicate mineral known for its ability to insulating against heat, flame, electricity, chemicals, and biodegradation. Additionally, asbestos flakes into microscopic fibers that have high tensile strength and flexibility. Thus, it is easily added to a wide variety of materials that necessitate insulating properties.
However, it’s also the ability to flake into tiny fibers that makes asbestos so dangerous. Asbestos products that can release the carcinogen into the air are determined to be “friable.” On the other hand, products which have asbestos sealed tightly so that it is unable to be released into the air are called “non-friable.” While the use of this material is primarily banned, some non-friable containers of asbestos are still allowed.
The problem with asbestos fibers is that our bodies are unable to break down and digest or process them. Thus, our tissues form nodules around the fibers that can later turn into cancerous tumors, or they can contribute to problems such as pleural effusions. Indeed, when asbestos is present in the skin, it forms lumps called asbestos warts.
While non-friable asbestos is considered to be safer than friable asbestos, the former can still break down due to age or wear and tear, enabling it to become present in the air. Thus, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, enacted legislation regarding asbestos, it took into account the potential dangers of even non-friable asbestos.
The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) regulates asbestos in the air. It states that both non-friable and friable asbestos can become weakened by forces of nature or other such friction, resulting in the release of carcinogenic fibers. Thus, even if your home contains non-friable asbestos, renovations or remodeling can release dangerous fibers.
Thus, if you suspect that you have asbestos in your home, you should not disturb the material so that you do not accidentally release the fibers into the air. You must get a professional asbestos removal service to take the material out, and you should not remodel your home if you believe that asbestos may be present. For some people who are especially sensitive to this material, a single exposure can result in an asbestos-related disease.