Identifying Asbestos. What Does This Toxic Substance Look Like?

Asbestos is a natural mineral made of fibers that are resistant to corrosion, electricity, and heat. It is because of its qualities that the mineral was widely used in the 20th century. However, even though asbestos boasts of these useful qualities, asbestos is highly toxic. When an individual inhales the asbestos fibers, the fibers can cause mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive type of cancer.

Today, asbestos is no longer being used in most new products and buildings. However, many old buildings, homes, and products still contain this toxic substance. Even after it was discovered that the substance is harmful, most asbestos-containing buildings were not banned. Additionally, many asbestos-containing materials and products were not forcibly removed from circulation, either. As a result, asbestos still poses a threat to homeowners, workers, and many other people.

Many people would want to know what asbestos looks like. Homeowners and renovators, most especially, would want to know how to identify this toxic substance before beginning home construction or renovation. Many schools, homes, and other buildings built before the 1980s contain asbestos, and during construction or renovation, people interact with asbestos-containing materials without even realizing it. Unfortunately, identifying asbestos is not that simple.

What Does Asbestos Look Like?

According to the Asbestos Emergency Response Act (AHERA)/ Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), there are six forms of asbestos, namely:

  • Chrysotile (White Asbestos)
  • Amosite (Brown Asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (Blue Asbestos)
  • Anthophyllite (Green, Dull green, or White Asbestos)
  • Tremolite (Brown, White, Green, Gray or Transparent Asbestos)
  • Actinolite (Brown, White, Green, Gray or Transparent Asbestos)

While the above forms of asbestos can be identified under a microscope, one cannot see asbestos fibers with the naked eye because asbestos fibers are too small. On top of being too small, asbestos fibers are extremely light, such that, once suspended in the air, asbestos fibers can remain floating for days.

Can One Identify Asbestos by its Smell?

Even though most things that cannot be seen with the naked eye have an odor, asbestos is not one of those things. Rooms with asbestos built into walls, the ceiling, and the floors do not have a detectable odor. If, for example, a person drills into asbestos-containing materials, the dust that will be released will smell like any other dust. Even heavy asbestos amounts do not have a detectable odor.

Asbestos Testing and Surveys

Professionals with the expertise to handle asbestos-containing materials without spreading the toxic substance are the ones that test for asbestos contaminations. Testing is one way to confirm the presence of this toxic substance. Depending on the amount of asbestos contamination a tester finds, asbestos abatement may be necessary before any renovation or construction can continue.

Another way of confirming the presence of asbestos is through surveys. Asbestos experts carry out asbestos surveys by gathering crucial information such as the age of a building. After knowing when a building was built, an asbestos expert can determine the materials that were used in the building. In many circumstances, asbestos surveys are a legal requirement.

Nationwide Mesothelioma Lawyers

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help pay for your medical treatment.


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