Friable Vs. Non-Friable Asbestos

Asbestos was used extensively in buildings and materials for decades until the 1980s because of its unique characteristics. Asbestos is affordable, durable, and fire and heat-resistant, making it a desirable ingredient for construction, manufacturing, and certain materials. Unfortunately, asbestos is also hazardous to human health.

What is Friability?
Friability is the likelihood of asbestos-containing materials breaking apart, chipping, or crumbling when placed under pressure or abrasion. Asbestos is dangerous when it is floating freely in the air. Inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers can lead to numerous diseases, including:

  • Asbestosis
  • Colon Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Mesothelioma

While physicians can treat some of these asbestos-related diseases or cancers once diagnosed, others, such as mesothelioma, have no cure and are fatal.

Friable Asbestos
Materials containing asbestos that are considered friable do not have asbestos fibers that are enclosed or encapsulated. As a result, it is simpler to release asbestos fibers into the atmosphere. Materials made of friable asbestos could quickly crumble in your hands.

Examples of friable asbestos products include:

  • Damaged asbestos cement products
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Stoves
  • Pipe lagging
  • Rope gaskets for ovens and wood stoves
  • Spray-on insulation
  • Textured paints and decorative ceiling coatings
  • Uncoated insulation on hot water pipes and heaters

Friable asbestos materials are at risk of damage and are more likely to release asbestos fibers into the atmosphere.

Non-Friable Asbestos
Non-friable asbestos-containing products are less dangerous because the fibers have been bonded with polymers such as cement, resin, or vinyl that encase the asbestos and keep the particles from becoming airborne. Most of the asbestos products remaining in homes and businesses today are considered non-friable asbestos. These do not pose a danger if left alone.

Non-friable asbestos-containing products include:

  • Attic insulation
  • Bitumen products
  • Cement pipe and sheet
  • Firebricks
  • Floor tiles
  • Roofing shingles
  • Thermal boards surrounding fireplaces or wood stoves
  • Vinyl sheet flooring
  • Wallboard

Can Non-Friable Asbestos Become Friable?
Many asbestos-containing materials can deteriorate over time due to weathering or age. A non-friable asbestos product can become a brittle asbestos product by crushing, dismantling, sanding, or scraping the material.
When a building owner knows there is asbestos present in the building, the asbestos should be evaluated and scheduled for periodic inspection and maintenance until they are removed during renovation or through an abatement program.

If you are suffering from lung cancer, mesothelioma, colon cancer, or throat cancer, contact the asbestos attorneys at Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C. There is not cost for a consultation and you may find you are entitled to considerable compensation. Fill out our web form or call us at 412-471-3980.

Article first appeared on

“Asbestos” Cancer Council [Link]
“What’s the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos?” Facilities Toolbox [Link]
“Occupational Safety and Health Administration” United States Department of Labor [Link]