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Asbestos is a strong, fibrous, fire-resistant material and a naturally occurring mineral.


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A wide range of building materials may contain asbestos, particularly where insulation or heat and fire resistance are essential to safe construction.

While asbestos was used more widely in homes built in the 1970s and earlier, asbestos may be a component of materials used in newer structures built until 1981. Some examples of common materials that may contain asbestos include asphalt tile floors; the backing on sheet or tile vinyl flooring; cements; plaster, spackling and decorative compounds; furnace gaskets; flexible duct connectors; exterior siding; and roofing materials.

Long-term exposure to airborne asbestos fibers has been linked to serious diseases of the lung.


One of the most important issues is whether Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) are friable or non-friable. Friable ACMs can be crumbled by hand pressure, such as fluffy, spray-applied fireproofing. Non-friable ACMs do not crumble with hand pressure, such as vinyl asbestos floor tiles.


Non-friable ACMs are not hazardous unless abraded or damaged. Leave this undamaged asbestos material alone if it is not likely to be disturbed. Avoid sanding, chipping, chiseling or removing any material that may contain asbestos to avoid releasing its fibers into the air.

Consult an asbestos abatement contractor to determine the best course of action when dealing with materials that may contain asbestos. The presence of asbestos in a material sample may be confirmed by various lab tests. Expensive asbestos removal may not be the best course of action; for example, you may be better off “encapsulating” a worn asphalt tile floor simply by installing new flooring on top of a plastic barrier placed over the old surface.


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Asbestos:  Created on June 4th, 2009.  Last Modified on November 10th, 2009


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