More than 3000 processed asbestos materials and products are known to date. There are two forms of asbestos products – friable and non-friable asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was once available in raw (friable – loose) form for ceiling insulation, under the name Mr. Fluffy Asbestos Insulation in and around the ACT and parts of NSW, Australia. However, Australia banned the use of all forms of asbestos after January 1, 2004. Still, many other countries use it in the manufacture of various products.
Non-Friable (Hard-Bonded) Asbestos
In Australia, more than 97% of the asbestos products used were non-friable materials, where the asbestos fibers were bonded by vinyl, cement, resin, or other likewise materials.
Bonded asbestos products/materials are a bit safe until they are damaged, sawed, drilled, sanded, crushed, or excessively altered. If anything like this happens, fibers are released from the non-friable hard bonded asbestos products, and they become friable.
In the first image, you will see a corrugated asbestos sheet metal roof showing indications of weathering. The second image shows a broken asbestos cement fence sheet, which allows you to see the asbestos bonding materials. To reduce the risk of additional fiber release, these asbestos materials must be made secure. In the third image, you can look at a backsplash panel with tiles over an asbestos sheet.
Friable (Loose Fibrous or Soft Bonded) Asbestos
Any raw (loose or in natural form) asbestos is known as friable asbestos. Materials/products containing asbestos that can be crumbled, grounded, or powdered using only the hands – like loose or fibrous flooring backing; ceiling insulation; sprayed or spongy insulation usually seen around pipes, boilers, etc.; rope insulation material; or material that is already in a loose fibrous form are also called friable asbestos. Non-friable (hard-bound) asbestos also becomes friable when broken or damaged by mechanical force.
Only a licensed and trained asbestos remover can legally handle friable asbestos because it is highly unsafe.
As a general rule, asbestos-containing materials can become friable if they are disturbed and become airborne – simply by the effect of a breeze or by creating a breeze as you walk by.
In the fourth image, you can see a friable rope and lag. The last picture is of a woven asbestos fire blanket.
Note: Non-friable (bound) asbestos can also become as dangerous as friable asbestos; there is no distinction because of the type, color, or shape of the asbestos – all in all, every type, color, and form of asbestos can kill people!
Asbestos products were/are very versatile; they can be easily cast, formed, cut, bored, or decorated. There are no conclusive on-site tests for the presence of asbestos.
You can determine Asbestos products conclusively by laboratory testing after sampling.
If you suspect that building material, product, or an item is asbestos or contains asbestos, treat it as it contains asbestos until proven by laboratory testing.