There are a lot of misconceptions about asbestos, especially issues about when the material is dangerous and when it’s not. Generally, asbestos that is intact – not old or damaged in any way – is safe to be around. However, when the material becomes “friable” and is in poor condition, that’s when the concerns should begin.
“Friable” seems like an unusual word to use when referring to asbestos material. But think about the various meanings of the word “fry”. We most often think of fry as a cooking term when, in actuality, it also has another important meaning, probably made popular in the last 30-40 years.
Fry means to damage or destroy. Remember those anti-drug commercials with the frying egg? Think about that when you consider the meaning of friable asbestos.
According to U.S. laws, asbestos materials are constituted as friable when they contain more than one percent asbestos (weight or area) and can be crushed with simple hand pressure, therefore making it likely that asbestos fibers will be emitted into the air. Once fibers are circulating through the air, anyone who is in the vicinity of the fibers can inhale them.
Some of the most common forms of friable asbestos are the fluffy spray-on materials that were used for decades as insulation, fireproofing, and sound proofing. When this material gets old, becomes damaged, or is disturbed in some way or another, millions of tiny sharp asbestos fibers can make their way into the air.
This spray-on asbestos is among the most lethal of all asbestos-containing materials (ACM) and respirators should ALWAYS be worn when handling these items, which had names such as Armstrong Armaspray, Perfect Spray by National Gypsum, Keene’s Pyrospray, and W. R. Grace’s Zonolite insulation, just to name a few.
Do-it-yourselfers should be especially vigilant when working in an older home that may have this type of insulation. Inspections to determine the presence of this and other asbestos materials should always be made before beginning any sort of renovation project.
Other ACMs can also emit fibers when they are damaged or disturbed. This includes items such as shingles or siding, floor or ceiling tiles, acoustic ceilings, asbestos cement sheeting or piping, and many of the other thousands and thousands of objects that were manufactured using asbestos.
One should never saw, grind, or sand asbestos-containing materials as they will immediately become hazardous. Researchers have never been able to determine how much friable asbestos exposure is too much.
Even individuals who were only exposed to miniscule amounts have sometimes been diagnosed with asbestos-caused diseases, so those working with the material should never mistakenly believe that “a little exposure” is okay.
While it’s true that the more one is exposed, the more likely they are to get sick, even a small degree of exposure can be life changing.
If you have already been exposed to friable asbestos on-the-job or elsewhere, you should submit to regular screenings for lung ailments. If you are already experiencing respiratory ailments, tell your doctor you were exposed to asbestos so as to rule out any connection.
Finally, if you’ve already been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to encounters with friable asbestos, visit an attorney to learn more about the legal rights associated with this exposure.