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What is Asbestos Dust?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Asbestos dust is dust which includes fragmented particles of asbestos. It is considered hazardous because inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause lung problems, including the development of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. Concerns about the safety of asbestos have led to very tough regulations on the processing and safe disposal of asbestos, in part to reduce the risk of creating asbestos dust.

Historically, asbestos was used in a number of building materials, especially materials which were designed to provide fire resistance. Popcorn ceilings, certain types of floor tiles, insulation, and some finishes can all potentially contain asbestos, and it was used in a number of other products as well. As long as asbestos-containing materials are inert, they are not dangerous, but once they are damaged or breached, they release asbestos dust, and people can inhale the asbestos.

Once the health risks of asbestos were realized, asbestos was no longer allowed in building materials, and laws were put in place to cope with structures built with asbestos-containing materials. When such structures are remodeled, the asbestos must be removed carefully, and the same holds true when structures are demolished, so that asbestos dust cannot be released into the environment. Asbestos testing is available to determine whether or not a structure contains asbestos, and specialized firms can clean up asbestos-containing materials to render a building safe for use.

Asbestos dust may look like ordinary dust, or it may be fibrous in nature if the particles of asbestos are larger. It causes skin irritation because the fibers in the asbestos can dig into the skin, and if inhaled, it can damage the mouth, trachea, and lungs. People working in environments where asbestos dust may be present usually wear face protection to avoid inhaling it, and they wear protective clothing as well. When people are engaging in asbestos abatement to remove asbestos, they wear full-coverage disposable garments which are discarded after the abatement is over.

There can be a long lag time between asbestos exposure and the development of symptoms, which has become a serious problem in the world of liability claims, because sick patients may have difficulty proving that their illnesses were caused by exposure to asbestos or asbestos dust. People who know that they have been exposed to asbestos dust should keep a close eye on their respiratory health, and mention the exposure to their doctors so that it is recorded in their medical charts for future reference.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By titans62 — On Sep 11, 2011

@stl156 - I totally agree with you. The reason why there is so much emphasis placed on asbestos is because it is so hard to remove all asbestos out of a building.

First, to remove asbestos is no simple task in itself. It is very painstaking work and the workers that are removing the asbestos have to take almost extreme precautions in making sure that they do not inhale the dangerous dust particles.

Next, they have to be able to locate all the asbestos and this is an incredibly hard task to do because the particles can move anywhere in the building and it is very difficult to locate all of it in a timely manner.

Finally, there is removal and waste disposal. They have to figure out the best way to remove all the asbestos safely out of the building and then be able to safely destroy it without harming anyone involved.

All these steps in the process of asbestos particle removal are very time consuming and considering how much asbestos was used in building across the world this makes it a major problem and makes it very hard to rid asbestos in a timely manner.

By stl156 — On Sep 10, 2011

@JimmyT - The problem with it was that the school was in poor shape to begin with and it was very difficult to get all the asbestos in the building in a timely manner.

Although it may seem like a simple, yet time consuming venture, it is very difficult to remove all asbestos from the building. In my school's case there was so much that they estimated that it would take years for all the asbestos to be removed and that was one of the many problems that my school had.

Although it is simple to say that a project can occur to simply remove all the asbestos it is after all dust particles and can move around quite a bit over the years and be in all sorts of ares of the building and that is why it becomes such a problem for buildings like schools that occupy many people on a daily basis.

By JimmyT — On Sep 09, 2011

@stl156 - I have to wonder why did they not just remove the asbestos dust from your school? I understand that it would be somewhat time consuming but as long as you were in a public school the state would be in charge of the whole venture and would be able to put as many people as it would take for the job to get done in time for school to start. Even if it did cut into school I could not imagine that it would cut several months into the year and only delay the end of school. It would be worth it to do that and delay school a month or two to allow decades of safe education and learning for kids.

By stl156 — On Sep 09, 2011

People cannot overlook asbestos dust when they are working in the ceiling of a building. My high school had a real problem with asbestos dust and it about caused the school to be closed by the state just because of the concern they had for the kids. In order to keep school going they had to "forever" close off certain areas of the school and not allow people to go into the rooms. Even the custodians had to adhere to these rules unless they absolutely had to go into that area to fix something. In that scenario they were forced to wear masks to make sure they did not inhale the dangerous dust particles.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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