Friable vs. Non-Friable Asbestos: What’s the Difference?

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Somah Thong

Asbestos Removal Specialist

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Did you know that about one-third of all homes in Australia built before 1980 have asbestos? It’s important to know the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos because of this. Knowing about these types of asbestos, their health risks, and how to manage them helps keep us safe.

Friable asbestos can easily break into airborne particles, making it more dangerous than non-friable asbestos. It’s key to recognize and handle these differences to avoid health issues like mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos safety is very important for our health and well-being.

Key Takeaways

  • One-third of Australian homes built before 1980 contain asbestos materials.
  • Asbestos safety is paramount due to the associated health risks.
  • Friable asbestos easily crumbles and becomes airborne, posing greater health risks.
  • Non-friable asbestos remains more stable and intact.
  • Understanding the differences between asbestos types is crucial for effective asbestos management.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in nature. It’s known for its strength and ability to resist heat. These fibers are tiny and can float in the air when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed. This poses significant health risks.

History of Asbestos Use in Australia

The asbestos history in Australia is long and significant. Its insulation and fire-resistance made it popular in building materials from the 1940s to the 1980s. Australia was also key in asbestos mining, focusing on chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite. The mining town of Wittenoom in Western Australia is infamous for its crocidolite mining.

Types of Asbestos

There are three main types of asbestos: chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite. Each has its own features and uses:

  • Chrysotile: Also called white asbestos, chrysotile is the most common asbestos. It was used in roofs, ceilings, walls, and floors.
  • Amosite: Or brown asbestos, has straight, brittle fibers. It was mainly used in cement sheets and pipe insulation.
  • Crocidolite: Known as blue asbestos, it is highly resistant to chemicals. Its very thin fibers make it particularly dangerous if inhaled. This type was less used but appeared in some spray-on insulations.

The Dangers of Asbestos

It’s very important to understand the dangers of asbestos for our health’s sake. Being exposed to asbestos is linked to serious diseases, so we need to be careful.

Health Risks

Being around asbestos a lot can cause deadly health problems. One of the worst is mesothelioma. This rare cancer attacks the lining of the lungs, heart, or belly. Another dangerous condition is asbestosis. This happens when asbestos fibres scar lung tissue and make breathing hard.

Asbestos can also cause lung cancer. This serious cancer affects the lungs.


Exposure Scenarios

People usually come into contact with asbestos at work or in old buildings. Workers in fields like construction, demolition, and shipbuilding are often at risk. Old materials in homes and public places can also be dangerous if they break down and release fibres.

We need to be careful and manage these risks. This will help us avoid dangerous asbestos exposure and keep everyone safe.

Understanding Friable vs. Non-Friable Asbestos

When talking about asbestos safety, knowing the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos is key. This knowledge is essential for managing asbestos safely, especially regarding the dangers of airborne asbestos fibres.

Definition of Friable Asbestos

Friable asbestos is a material containing asbestos that can crumble or turn to powder easily by hand when dry. This form is dangerous because it can release asbestos fibres into the air. When these fibres are inhaled, they pose a significant health risk.

Definition of Non-Friable Asbestos

Non-friable asbestos, or bonded asbestos, is more stable compared to friable asbestos. Its fibres are trapped in a sturdy matrix. This makes them less likely to get into the air unless the material is damaged by mechanical means. Yet, it’s still important to handle it with care.

Key Differences Explained

AspectFriable AsbestosNon-Friable Asbestos
Physical NatureEasy to crumble into powderContains bound fibres
Risk LevelHigh due to loose asbestos fibresLower if intact and undisturbed
ExamplesThermal insulation, sprayed coatingsCement sheeting, vinyl floor tiles
Removal RequirementsSpecialised procedures due to high riskStandard precautions unless broken

To handle asbestos safely, understanding the differences between friable and non-friable types is critical. We need tailored strategies for each type to ensure everyone’s health and meet legal standards.

How to Identify Friable and Non-Friable Asbestos

Finding out if asbestos is friable or non-friable is key for its safe management. For asbestos identification, visual checks and lab tests are mainly used. These methods help us know the asbestos material’s condition accurately.

Asbestos identification

The initial step in asbestos testing is usually a detailed visual check. This involves searching for signs of wear or damage. Tell-tale signs are loose fibres, edges that crumble, or powder residue. These signs mean the asbestos may be friable, which is riskier because it can become airborne.

Since visual checks give only a first look, lab testing is a must for clear asbestos identification. Experts send off samples to see what type and condition the asbestos is in. This thorough test tells us if the asbestos is friable and needs careful handling, or non-friable and generally safer.

Non-friable asbestos can turn friable over time due to water damage, hits, or aging. That’s why ongoing asbestos testing and checks are crucial, especially in older buildings. This helps keep risks under control.

Managing Asbestos in Your Home or Workplace

Keeping everyone safe from asbestos is crucial. Hiring pros like Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane is the first step. They know the key steps and use their skills for your safety.

The Role of Professional Asbestos Inspection

A detailed check by expert inspectors is where it starts. With the right training and tools, they find and identify asbestos. They stick to strict rules to ensure they do it right and keep everyone safe.

Safe Asbestos Removal Practices

After checking everything, it’s time for safe removal. Professionals make sure asbestos is handled and disposed of properly. They use methods like encapsulation and follow rules to keep everyone safe.

Why Choose Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane

Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane is a top choice for many. They offer everything from inspection to cleaning up afterward. Their team works hard to remove asbestos safely and meet your specific needs.


In this article, we’ve explored the key differences between friable and non-friable asbestos. We’ve looked at the health risks and how to manage each type. Knowing these differences is key to protect ourselves from asbestos dangers. Asbestos awareness keeps Australian homes and work places safe.

We highlighted the need for expert help in managing asbestos. It’s crucial to use professionals for identifying and dealing with asbestos properly. With licensed pros like Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane, we can avoid asbestos risks.

In conclusion, we strongly recommend Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane for your asbestos needs. They are skilled and committed to safety, making them a solid choice for fighting asbestos dangers. Let’s keep asbestos awareness high and tackle asbestos with care to keep our communities safe for the future.


What is friable asbestos?

Friable asbestos is asbestos that’s easy to crush or turn into powder by hand. This is risky because it can release dangerous asbestos fibres into the air. Breathing in these fibres can lead to serious lung diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

What is non-friable asbestos?

Non-friable asbestos is the kind that’s mixed with other materials, making it more stable. It’s safer because its fibres don’t easily get into the air unless it’s broken or worn down. This happens through damage or as it gets older.

What are the health risks of asbestos exposure?

Being exposed to asbestos is harmful. It can cause diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. These are serious conditions that happen when asbestos fibres get breathed in and stick to your lungs.

How can I identify asbestos in my home or workplace?

Finding asbestos might need an expert’s help. A specialist can tell by looking, but testing in a lab is sure to confirm it. Look for old or damaged materials as they might contain asbestos.

What should I do if I suspect asbestos in my property?

If you think there’s asbestos around, don’t touch it. Get a licensed expert to check it out. They’ll test it safely and tell you how to deal with it without risking your health.

Why is it important to distinguish between friable and non-friable asbestos?

Knowing the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos matters a lot. Friable asbestos can easily get into the air and is more dangerous. It must be handled carefully and quickly to protect everyone’s health.

What are the safe asbestos removal practices?

Removing asbestos safely means wearing the right gear and using special tools. Only qualified experts should do it. They know how to keep asbestos fibres from getting into the air and how to get rid of the waste properly.

Why should I choose Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane?

Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane knows how to handle asbestos safely. They offer full services, from checking your place to removing the asbestos properly. Their trained team follows Australian rules to keep your space safe.

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Somah Thong

Asbestos Removal Specialist

Somah Thong is an experienced, licensed, and qualified asbestos removal specialist and the founder of Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane. Established on June 2, 2010, Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane has become a leading name in the industry, undertaking some of the largest asbestos and demolition projects in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. With a commitment to safety and excellence, Somah and his team have earned a reputation for delivering high-quality services in the asbestos removal sector.