Asbestos: What It Is and What Removal Entails

Man in Hazmat Suit

Learning that your house may be contaminated with asbestos can be troubling, especially if you don’t have a lot of knowledge on the topic. This article aims to solve that and explains all things asbestos, from types and dangers to removal.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral that consists of thin but dense fibers. Because it’s resistant to electricity, fire, and heat, it was in construction. However, it is also a hazardous material that can have devastating consequences on your health and wellbeing. Buildings built before the 2000s are likely to be contaminated with asbestos. This can be in anything from plaster to ceilings and floors.

Types of Asbestos

Asbestos is into six main types, which fall under two main groups – amphibole asbestos and serpentine asbestos.

Amphibole Asbestos

Their straight and jagged shape characterize amphibole asbestos. Five of the six types of asbestos fall into this category and include crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite, amosite, and anthophyllite.

Serpentine Asbestos

Serpentine asbestos, on the other hand, consists of curly fibers. The sixth and final type of asbestos falls into this category and is known as chrysotile or “white asbestos.”

When is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos is most dangerous when it is friable, i.e., when it can be broken down and released into the air easily. For example, asbestos floor tile is not dangerous, while spray-on insulation is. However, asbestos tiles and doors can become dangerous when damaged or disturbed because asbestos fibres release into the air. It should be noted that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

Destroying these fibres is not an easy task, and the human body cannot break them down or discard them. Moreover, when they remain lodged in the body, they can cause diseases such as asbestosis and cancer.


Asbestosis may not be cancerous, but it’s a severe, chronic respiratory disease. The asbestos fibers that have been inhaled damage and scar lung tissue. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a crackling sound during inhalation, and, eventually, cardiac failure. Asbestosis has no treatment and often results in long-term disability and death. Those who regularly work with asbestos are at high risk for this disease.


A rare form of cancer occurs in the membrane lining of the abdomen, chest, lungs, and heart, mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos. Those who work closely with asbestos or live near areas contaminated with airborne asbestos fibres are at significant risk for developing mesothelioma.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the deadliest of all diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, chest pains, hoarseness, and anaemia. If exposed to both asbestos and cigarette smoke, the risk of developing lung cancer increases significantly.

Other Cancers

Other asbestos-related cancers include those of the skin, stomach, kidney, oesophagus, oral cavity, colon, and larynx.

How Asbestos Removal Works

Removing asbestos is a dangerous job that requires specialised training and equipment. It is not a DIY job and needs to be undertaken by contractors certified to do so. If asbestos removal is not performed correctly, it can become airborne. Being microscopic and invisible to the human eye, inhaling or ingesting it can cause serious health issues like lung cancer and mesothelioma. If ingested over a long period of time, asbestos can cause severe lung damage and damage to other organs.


Safety is of the utmost importance when dealing with a substance as harmful as asbestos. Therefore, before the removal process starts, containment and decontamination units are set up for decontamination procedures. Contractors divide the decontamination areas into “clean” and “dirty” areas to ensure that asbestos fibres don’t escape the “dirty” area.

Protective gear and other equipment needed for asbestos removal is stored in the “clean” decontamination areas. All surfaces undergo decontamination, and all personal protective equipment (PPE) requires cleaning before leaving the site.

Preparation and Materials

Preparation is critical when dealing with asbestos. All materials used have to comply with safety standards. The following are some of the materials required for asbestos abatement:

  • 6 mils-thick plastic sheeting
  • Clean water
  • Clean buckets
  • Waste container
  • Waste bags
  • Barricades
  • Fresh rags
  • Personal protective equipment


Removal and clean-up also require special care. All waste must be double bagged, labelled, taped, and disposed of in hazardous waste bins. Contractors also spray down materials like plaster and tiles before removing them. Asbestos waste is then disposed of carefully. The government forbids using rubber chutes for this and advises caution because tearing and rough handling can make asbestos airborne.

Therefore, asbestos removal is a serious process that only certified professionals can complete. Use trustworthy platforms like iSeekplant to locate expert services and remove hazardous material safely.

Deepak Chopra
Dr. Deepak Chopra is a well-known figure in integrative medicine and holds an MD. His previous roles include professorships at medical schools and leadership in holistic health organizations. He is a prolific author, with works focusing on the intersection of science, spirituality, and health. He is a keynote speaker at various global health conferences and has authored numerous articles and books on health optimization. He is deeply involved in philanthropy, focusing on global health initiatives. His hobbies include astronomy and exploring ancient healing traditions.

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  1. […] paint, mold and asbestos are known to be harmful to your health and need to be dealt with carefully. It is best to have them […]

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