What Does Asbestos Look like: It’s Origin, Use and Danger

What Does Asbestos Look like asbestosdefinition.com To tell the truth, it is not easy to answer “what does asbestos look like?“ question. One thing for sure: people have used asbestos for many years. While some of you might think that this is a friendly material, asbestos is actually banned from several countries. How is the real story of asbestos?


Asbestos Definition and How It Affects Your Life Entirely


What Does Asbestos Look like and Where Does It Come From?

Image What Does Asbestos Look like

Frankly speaking, describing asbestos could take several different approaches. One might answer “what does asbestos look like” by describing its natural form. Another person might prefer to mention different types of items that have asbestos in it. Either way, the answer is not wrong.

Those who answer what does asbestos look like in nature would be likely to describe something about “very strong fibrous mineral”. Like any other minerals, it is dug out of the earth. Microscopic asbestos is also existed, but it is too small to be seen by naked eyes.

Some of you might wonder if there is a certain country that produces more asbestos than the others. First use of asbestos is dated back to Stone Age. People who lived around that era were using asbestos as their wicks. That is what does asbestos look like at that time.

However, massive use of asbestos didn’t happen until late 1800s. World needs Industrial Revolution to push building development and advanced research to sustainable and strong materials. Researcher took deeper interest to what does asbestos look like and how they could use them.


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Soon after they learned about asbestos and its wide range of benefits for building material, plenty of asbestos mining locations were opened. People are no longer astonished to what does asbestos look like but they want to get more to sell. Some of most popular mining locations are Africa and Quebec. Through these two mining spots, researchers learn various types of asbestos.

What does asbestos look like in Africa? It will be crocidolite or blue asbestos. Those who buy asbestos from Quebec will get chrystolite or white asbestos. Some other types of asbestos are amosite, anthopyllite, tremolite and actinolite. These asbestos could be found in different part of the world: Italy, Findland, Australia, Zimbabwe, and many more.

Why People Use Asbestos?

Image asbestos

Image asbestos by en.wikipedia.org

It is true that Industrial Revolution triggered further investigation on asbestos. At first, they heard rumor about what does asbestos look like and how strong it is. Without any proof, this information will be a mere gossip. Researcher needs strong evidence to start mass digging or even mass production of asbestos.

There were plenty of documented uses of asbestos in the past, more than just what does asbestos look like. Researchers simply tested them one by one. In the end, they conclude that asbestos has plenty of worthy qualities as building materials.

First of all, asbestos makes very great insulation materials. It applies for both acoustic and thermal properties. Despite of what does asbestos look like, it could be mixed with any other materials. This action will make even stronger asbestos items. People at that time found this feature to be very impressive.

In addition to all of the benefits above, asbestos is also fireproof. It is another surprise, considering what does asbestos look like. Any other material in fiber form will immediately be burnt by fire. Moreover, asbestos could also tackle most chemical substance. Putting it above the roof won’t be a problem: asbestos could stand the worst weather conditions.

What Does Asbestos Look Like?

Image What Does Asbestos Look Like

In order to answer this question, people need to understand one thing: a single asbestos is not visible at all. You have to put it under microscope to see what does asbestos look like. One piece of asbestos is very thin but tight. However, a huge group of asbestos might be able to be seen or even touched.

If people could see what does asbestos look like with naked eyes, what is its color? Good question. Asbestos’ color is defined by its types. Most of them are seen as white, dull green or grey. It has been mentioned before that there are several types of asbestos. Each of them has specific description.

Most popular asbestos type is chrystolite. People described what does asbestos look like: long, white and curly fiber. Second most popular one is amosite. It has long straight fiber with brown color. Crocidolite, on the other hand, has very similar fiber to amosite. There is one different, though: crodicolite color is either blue or green.

If you have the chance to visit the asbestos mining, you might add one more description on what does asbestos look like. A clump of asbestos fiber could easily be broken by hands. In its raw form, asbestos is quite fragile.  This raw material is often called friable asbestos. Non-friable label is given to processed product that has asbestos mix.

How Is It Presented In Building Material?

Image What Does Asbestos Look like

It would be a careless action to use raw asbestos directly as building materials. As mentioned above, asbestos will be multiple times stronger when it is mixed with some other materials. In this case, people might need to learn what does asbestos look like after they passed manufacture processes.

  • Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB)

Image Asbestos Insulation Board

When asbestos gained popularity back in 1900s, there is one particular product that contained asbestos and produced in massive numbers. It is no other than asbestos insulation board (AIB). So, what does asbestos look like in this form? The answer is literally everything for indoor and outdoor use.

For indoor use, people love to install it in their ceiling, façade, or even partition. In many cases, AIB is also installed alongside anything with heating-related function. This includes house heating systems in bathrooms, kitchen or even bedroom. Again, what does asbestos look like couldn’t be pointed out specifically. It could be covered in painting or tiles.


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There is one way to find out whether the walls of existed building have asbestos mix or not. Try to slash the suspected walls. If it has asbestos, then the result will be fibrous cut. However, this method is not recommended, as doing so will release asbestos into air. It is safer to call an expert instead.

  • Asbestos Cement

Image Asbestos Cement

Have you ever wonder what does asbestos look like in cement? Many people share similar concern, but none has ever been able to detect asbestos in cement product. Nonetheless, it is a common practice in the past. People do this to get stronger and more durable buildings. Manufacturer usually mixes cement and chrystolite.

Constructor that uses asbestos cement often put it on roof tiles and undercloaking. Both are located quite high up, so people might not be able to spot it. What does asbestos look like on older installation? Part of roof that was glued using asbestos cement would stay intact, but some parts might be corrugated.

  • Vinyl and Resins Asbestos

Image Vinyl and Resins Asbestos

People back then were very interested in asbestos. They want to be surrounded by asbestos not only by walls, but also by floors! You could see what does asbestos look like on either the surface or second layer of floor tiles. There   are two main floor items that uses asbestos in them: vinyl tiles and sheet-laid vinyl.

Vinyl tile is also known as thermoplastic tiles and has been used since Second World War. It is often laid under decorative flooring tiles. Therefore, you might be more likely to see one colored vinyl tile.

However, some houses prefer to have thermoplastic tile as the finished surface. In that case, they will be colored and arranged carefully to create certain motive. One more asbestos mix product is resin. People will find it in their toilet seats, window sills or even cisterns.

  • Asbestos Textured Coatings
Image Asbestos Textured Coatings

By en.wikipedia.org

You might not need to wander too far to see what does asbestos look like. You might have heard your grandmother or grandfather mention something called Artex. It is the name of a manufacturer that produces textured coatings. Artex is not the only manufacturer that produces textured coating, but it was so popular that people start using it as product name.

In this mixture, there is certain percentage of asbestos. What does asbestos look like in textured coatings? It is not bad to observe.  There are three favorite patterns. They are back, circles and swirls. In addition to walls, some people also put this coating on their ceilings.

  • Asbestos Sprayed Coating

Image Asbestos Sprayed Coating

It has been mentioned before that asbestos has fireproof feature. People take advantage of it by using asbestos in a lot of corners that are prone to be burnt. What does asbestos look like in sprayed coating form? This product is surprisingly similar to asbestos’ raw form.

In order to learn further, you need to know that asbestos sprayed coating is made from 85% raw asbestos. What does asbestos look like after spraying process? To tell the truth, you won’t like it. There will be lots of debris here and there. Also, you should take extra care for area with coated asbestos. Small cut will release million asbestos particles to the air.

  • Asbestos Pipe Insulation

Image Asbestos Pipe Insulation

Whether you realize or not, there are several hot pipes in the house. They are used to deliver hot water from its source to your bathroom or other rooms. Depending pipes’ shape it is covering, “what does asbestos look like” will be different. Unfortunately, they might not be detected, as many will be covered with paint.

Asbestos type that is used for pipe insulation has similar trait to sprayed coating. It could release microscopic particles of asbestos if it gets cut. What does asbestos look like after cut? It won’t be far from ordinary cement: smooth surface with cracks on some corners.

  • Asbestos Loose Insulation
Image Asbestos Loose Insulation

Image Asbestos Loose Insulation by flickr.com

Among the other asbestos product, loose insulation is probably the most dangerous one. While the other items have been mixed with some other substance, loose insulation uses asbestos in its pure form. What does asbestos look like? It is fibrous and easily disturbed even with small movement.

For this reason, loose insulation is often packed in a safety bag. People might ask: what does asbestos look like, but constructors should put it in a hidden place to avoid any contact.  It would be inside sound proof walls, ship building, floor cavities, and so on.

Is There Any Way To Detect Asbestos?

Image Is There Any Way To Detect Asbestos

By ewastedisposal.blogspot.com

Yes, there are some possible ways to tell whether a building is using asbestos. Before discussing further, make sure you could answer “what does asbestos look like” question. Otherwise, there will be more to learn in the investigating process.

  • Tracing Asbestos Materials
Image Tracing Asbestos Materials

By millermitigation.com

First process in this investigation might include some document research. Take a look at the date of building. A house built between 1940 to early 1990 is more likely to have asbestos in its material. After this period, researchers dig deeper than “what does asbestos look like” and many countries ban it. Thus, any house built after 1995 should have no asbestos in it.

It is possible for people for not knowing “what does asbestos look like”. However, it shouldn’t be a reason to have missed some obvious sign of asbestos. Try to pay attention to any joints. In most cases, aluminum runners are used to connect asbestos sheet. It is also possible to glue them using adhesive asbestos from the inside.


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If any of the above mentioned is too difficult to understand, then simply observe building’s exterior. It will be more helpful if you know “what does asbestos look like”. Asbestos product is mostly thin and has fiber like substance on top. An oily surface could be a sign too. It could be a mixture of asbestos and asphalt.

Don’t forget that asbestos is often used as both fire proof and heating property materials. This means you have to know better than “what does asbestos look like”. Start looking closely in bathroom, kitchen, closet, or any other area that has something to do with heat.

  • Searching Asbestos Marks
Image Searching Asbestos Marks

by sfgate.com

Since you are going to look for asbestos, it is only natural that the basic guideline should include “what does asbestos look like”. Thankfully, there is another way to make this job easier. Since asbestos is made into different products, you could start by looking for any manufacturer mark.

Don’t be discouraged when you cannot find visible code on a product. You don’t have to immediately grab your phone and start typing “what does asbestos look like” either. It might help to find more information about various marking on asbestos product. You can try to find this mark instead.

It could be stamped in one of its corner or maybe on its back. Instead of reading tons of articles about “what does asbestos look like”, you could search further information about the manufacturer and its product. AC means that the product has asbestos, while NT says that it is free of asbestos.

  • Calling For Experts
Image What Does Asbestos Look Like-Calling For Experts

By havewehadhelp.wordpress.com

Still not getting any lead after trying two methods? Then it is time to call for help. There are people who have read “what does asbestos look like” and more about this topic. You only need to find their contact through online sites. An asbestos expert is either an experienced contractor or building inspector. Checking whether they have any experience with asbestos is also important.

Some consultation could be done by simple calls or email. They would kindly explain about “what does asbestos look like”, where they are usually installed, and so on.  If this approach doesn’t help, then be prepared to take some samples and send them to the experts. Cut a little piece of suspected materials and place it in transparent plastic bag.

Next step is sending this material to laboratory. Not all labs’ staffs learn “what does asbestos look like” and how to identify them. Make sure the lab you are heading at is NATA certified lab. Otherwise, you have to mail it.

Sending asbestos through mail post is not as simple as it sounds. Try to find any regulation regarding asbestos packaging. Believe it or not, mail staff had certain warning on “what does asbestos look like”. Surely, identifying machine will beep if you don’t follow the packing instruction.

How Dangerous Is Asbestos?

Image What Does Asbestos Look Like-How Dangerous Is Asbestos

Ever since human explores the use of asbestos in 1800s, there has been continuous research about its effect on human health. Earliest expert document was dated back in 1897. It was not a simple definition of “what does asbestos look like”, but a notes on pulmonary trouble after inhaling asbestos dust. Sadly, no one paid attention yet.

A year later, another similar case was found in England. Scholars had heard about “what does asbestos look like” and its dangers. Even though they closely inspect asbestos manufacturer since 1833, casualties started to fall in 1898. It quickly became hot topic as workers experience lung damages caused by asbestos fine dust.

It doesn’t take long before insurance companies learn deeper about “what does asbestos look like”. Their effort was made into a premium and more elaborated insurance for asbestos mining workers. They are focusing more on workers’ health and safety.

If the insurance is covering asbestos mining workers, does it mean that regular citizen is not exposed to any threat? Well, not really. In fact, people who live under a building made from asbestos will experience some side effects as well. No matter “what does asbestos look like” or how affordable it is, health always comes first.

  • Process and Victims of Asbestos

Image cancer

No one would be happy to be diagnosed with certain illness in their bodies. A lot of questions will pop out: how do I get this illness? What have I done? It could be traced back to lack of understanding on “what does asbestos look like”. People tend to be more careful with intimidating object. Since asbestos is fluffy fibrous material, it seems many have underestimated it.

First of all, asbestos is extremely dangerous as airborne pollutant. There is no other way asbestos could enter body internal system except from inhalation. This is why learning about “what does asbestos look like” is quite obligatory. Note that the amount of asbestos inhaled by human played important part.

In daily lives, people inhale small amount of asbestos. This won’t make them ill, despite of their lack of understanding on “what does asbestos look like”. Those who had the worst impact are those who are working in mining or manufacturer. They literally spend their whole day inhaling asbestos. First symptoms will appear in the next 20 to 30 years.

Some of you might be afraid that living under asbestos building will somehow deteriorate your health as well. Depending on what does asbestos look like and how they are used, you might or might not be experiencing worst case. When asbestos is mixed with another substance, there is little to none chance for it to be airborne. A cut or damage will release asbestos particles to air.

Once inhaled, fine fiber in asbestos will stay inside the body. Of course, your body will detect it as foreign object. Unfortunately, this is one of those objects that could be removed easily. As the result, your cells will be swollen. Some patients even will develop cancer. In this condition, smoking will push the cancer development.

  • Some Health Conditions Caused By Asbestos

There are several serious health conditions that are caused by asbestos. As such:

  • 1. Asbetosis

Image Sprayed Coating

This fancy name refers to chronic lung disease. Upon inhaling asbestos for long time, lungs will have lots of scars. Later on, these scars will be covered by soft tissues. Under doctor’s check up, they will be able to hear “crackle” sound. As for the patients, they are having hard time breathing normally. It is caused by soft tissues which reduce lungs ability to expand.

In addition to shortness of breath, patients might also experience frequent coughing and chest pain. Another visible sign is finger deformity which often known as finger clubbing. Their skin might also slowly change into bluish tone.

  • 2. Mesothelioma

Image Mesothelioma

This is an illness that directly linked to those who work in asbestos mining. It is very rare to experience mesothelomia without direct exposure to asbestos in large amount. The name mesothelomia is taken from mesothelial cells. They consist of pleural (lung), peritoneal (stomach) and pericardial (heart). When these three parts are infected, it could be lethal to the patients.

Why do asbestos mining workers have higher risk? To begin with, they are inhaling asbestos debris, fine dust and fiber every day. Next, some of the fiber might be swallowed during an attempt to remove it from throat. This will trigger mesothelomia in peritoneal part.

  • 3. Pleural Effect

Image Pleural Effect

There is no way out for those who are highly exposed to asbestos dust. If they don’t get the cancer, some other lungs abnormalities are awaiting.  One is called pleural plaques, where collagen is piling up in one point. Another condition is pleural effusion. In short, there is excessive fluid within pleural space.

Some other illnesses are diffuse thickening of pleura and folded lung. On first illness, patients have fibrous pleura which make it thicker than normal organ. The other condition, folded lung, is not less painful. There is an airless area in the lungs since pleural fibrosis is folded inside.

How to Remove Asbestos Safely?

What Does Asbestos Look like: It’s Origin, Use and Danger

While reading this article, you might be doing quick check on your own house and find some alarming facts. Some parts of the house match the definition on “what does asbestos look like” section. In this case, don’t be panic. There are ways to remove asbestos safely.

  1. Covering Mouth And Nose

Image Covering Mouth And Nose

Asbestos could enter your system through inhalation. Therefore, it is important to cover your mouth and nose before starting to work. Use standard mask for workers. It will be better if you also wear safety goggle.

  1. Splashing water

Image Splashing water

Using your knowledge on “what does asbestos look like”, mark every corners or spots that are expected to be built using asbestos.  Wet them thoroughly before and after making any cut. Your water could be plain, mixed with PVA or mixed with detergent.

  1. Using Garden Hose

Instead of bringing out big tub for splashing water, turn on garden hose instead. It applies when you are working with outdoor building. Its low pressure will provide similar amount of water during removal process. Make sure all electricity lines are turned off already.

  1. Soaking The Asbestos

Image Soaking The Asbestos

There are some cases where asbestos material is sticking out, either from the ground or any other surface. Best way to deal with this condition is damping the part with water. While removing it, make minimum contact. It will be helpful to wear a pair of gloves.

  1. Removing Bolts Or Fixing

Image Removing Bolts Or Fixing

These small items have been in contact with asbestos for a long time. There is high chance of it being asbestos contaminated. Thus, you should have a separated asbestos waste box. After removing them from the wall or material, secure it in the box.

  1. Keeping Asbestos Piece

Image Keeping Asbestos Piece

As you learned, asbestos is more dangerous in dust form. After cutting or removing it, handle with care and resist to crush asbestos material to the ground.

Not long after asbestos was found, people immediately start to make it into various building properties. Some of you might wonder what does asbestos look like. It is hard to answer, since asbestos is often made into many items. Make sure to learn about its effect to health before buying it.

 


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