Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that can be found in rock or soil. Asbestos is was mined in the United States for much of the 20th Century. Asbestos is no longer mined in the United States but it is still mined in other countries like Russia, China, and Canada. One of the most famous used of the mineral fiber was document in cases involving vermiculite used as insulation. Much of the vermiculite insulation that was contaminated was harvested from a mine in Libby, Montana.
Asbestos in Construction
Asbestos has been used over 3000 products that can be found in personal residences, commercial buildings, multi-family housing, retails buildings, and many other types of structures. In single family housing, apartments, and condos it can be found in ceiling texture, drywall, furnace and heating duct insulation, water pipe insulation, paint, grout, exterior siding, roofing, vinyl floor coverings, heating and plumbing vent insulation, and other locations.
Asbestos can be hazardous when it is inhaled or ingested. The primary pathway for exposure is through our air passages. Asbestos containing materials are categorized primarily by how likely fibers are to become airborne. The terms used in the asbestos industry are friable and non-friable. The term friable is specifically defined as asbestos containing materials that can be made into a dust by hand pressure. An example of a friable product is ceiling texture or heating duct insulation. Both of these products are brittle and easily be damaged which releases fibers into the air we breathe. An example of a non-friable asbestos containing material would be a asbestos containing vinyl tile.
Testing for asbestos is only method that can positively identify if a construction material contains asbestos. The primary method for evaluating suspect materials is bulk sampling. The process of bulk sampling involves collecting a piece of the suspect material and observing the contents under a high power microscope. This is usually performed by an accredited laboratory and by highly trained personnel. Bulk sampling is used during the survey process to positively identify asbestos containing materials so they can be removed or included in an operations and maintenance plan. Asbestos air testing is used to determine the exposure levels of workers that are performing abatement activities Air testing can also be used air quality after an asbestos abatement project.