There are countless materials that contain asbestos – from cement to millboard installations – making it very difficult to identify from visual data alone. That doesn’t make it impossible, however. Asbestos has some physical characteristics that home owners and employees should be suspicious of encountering. That said, only a microscopic analysis can truly confirm that asbestos is present. Fortunately, many local labs are now fairly proficient at identifying both material, air, and water samples as asbestos containing or not. Until such an analysis is completed, however, any suspected asbestos should be avoided.
Factors: What Does Asbestos Look Like?
Asbestos Visual Indications
Asbestos can be added to concrete to make fire resistant masonry, frequently used in public buildings. A tell-tale sign of this use is the type of screw used to attach the insulating material to the inside of walls. Masonry screws that hold thick, heavy cement figures are a giveaway. Likewise, this form of asbestos is very inflexible – changes in temperature often cause it to crack. Look for cracks stemming from the connecting screws. For other forms of insulation, generally piping or ducting, asbestos appears as a cloth-like fibrous substance. It becomes frayed with age, appearing spongy and woven.
Microscopic Characteristics of Asbestos
Asbestos is made up of millions of microfibers. These are what makes the substance so dangerous. The way the fibers interlock makes the material an excellent heat dissipater, which is why it’s so frequently used as insulation or fire protection. The substance has a specific reaction to dispersive staining. If it is treated with staining materials, it should take on a particular striping pattern that should be easily identifiable by lab staff. Labs with access to higher quality equipment may be able to use phase contrast microscopy to identify the material. Only a microscope that meets the Health and Safety Laboratory specifications may be used for asbestos fiber counting.
Safety and Asbestos
If you discover asbestos in your home, you should contact a licensed asbestos removal specialist. Do not try to remove it yourself. The risk of exposure to both you and your family is not worth it. Asbestos can be deadly if inhaled. Fortunately, efforts to clean up after widespread asbestos use have been reasonably successful, and a typical home inspection before sale should identify its presence. Those selling homes containing asbestos are required to disclose its presence to any potential buyer. Asbestos use in the work place is far more common, particularly in the large manufacturing industries. If you encounter asbestos in the workplace, you should leave the area and consult a supervisor about safety procedures. You may also want to consult the company’s operations manual.
If you have any questions or concerns about your legal options in the face of asbestos exposure, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We know that asbestos is deadly, and we know that its continued use has been irresponsible. We seek justice for those who are victims of asbestos. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we can help you get justice. We’re offering free consultations to those interested; schedule one today.