Asbestos is any of the numerous fibrous minerals forms of magnesium silicate, used for fireproofing, electrical insulation, building materials, brake linings, chemical filters, suits, fireman’s gloves, and lots more.

Asbestos had been a major source of most engineering materials. In early engineering development, engineers tend to use the most readily available and suitable material with low or little knowledge regarding the longtime effects of such material.

Before now, asbestos fiber had been a major material in Building ceiling, boat components, aircraft components, and even automobiles, etc. meanwhile, modern engineering research has proven that particles of asbestos fiber that finds their way into the human body can have a long time effect by becoming a catalyst for multiple health challenges.

According to a report published by Oregon State University Corvallis, Oregon regarding the environmental health and safety impact of asbestos on human health emphasized that the easy way for asbestos to find its into the human body is through breathing.

In other words, asbestos materials that can lose their particles in the form of dust due to shaking, vibrations, or old age of being in use, etc. are at greater risk of harming humans or animals around the area.

Based on the above reason, modern researchers have made it clear that handling of asbestos or its material should be done by professionals.

The research and discoveries from modern researchers regarding asbestos have made the manufacturers of asbestos materials or materials containing asbestos pay more emphasis on the specified safety regarding asbestos.

For example, it has been made known that when asbestos materials exceed their service lifespan their particles tend to fly out in the form of dust if there is vibration or shaking on the surface of the material.

These particles will mix with the air in the surroundings but due to their tiny size and weightless nature their hover randomly in the air. The ignorant mammals within the surround will unknowingly inhale these asbestos particles.

The university report equally stated that asbestos that finds its way into the human body could end up on the throat, or the nose membranes can be removed. If it exceeds these two organs and finds its way into the human lungs or digestive tract they could be trapped in the body, the fibers can cause health problems ranging from cancer to a number of illnesses. In other words, all types of asbestos are potentially carcinogenic when inhaled.

Asbestos insulation was once ubiquitous. In its “friable” form (ability to be crumbled by hand, releasing fiber into the air) most sprayed asbestos can be a source of such situations.

Asbestos materials in the form of asbestos floor tiles, asbestos roofing sheets, & asbestos ceilings, etc. cannot be found in “friable form” except if they have exceeded their life span or got damaged or affected by other factors. For instance, drilling asbestos ceiling or floor tiles will make it release the particles into the air.


Due to the inability of the body to digest, eject, or convert asbestos particles in the human body, the particles remain in the body for as long as they can. If it finds its way into the lungs or body tissue the primary health disease are:

Asbestosis (Serious, chronic, non-cancerous respiratory disease),

Lung Cancer (symptoms of lung cancer include coughing, shortness of breath, persistent chest pain, hoarseness, anemia and change in breathing, etc.)

Mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer that occurs in the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, & sometimes the heart)

Asbestos ingestion has been found to contribute to the following cancers in the human body: larynx, oral cavity, stomach, esophagus, and colon and kidney cancers.

The likelihood of developing asbestos-related illness includes the following factors:

Environment and its exposure to the asbestos, smoking habit, and the age you inhaled the asbestos will determine how long it can stay before causing further illness.

To know if your surrounding has been infected with asbestos particles, a microscopic magnifying glass can assist with strong illumination of the surrounding.


  1. Always take note of the age of the asbestos to know when it is necessary to change them.
  2. Always avoid vibrations, dusting, shaking, or nailing/grinding on the asbestos surface.
  3. Ensure you use proper PPE when handling any asbestos if there is a need for it. PPEs recommended in this condition include disposable nose masks, disposable hand gloves, and disposable coveralls.
  4. Always invite the accredited asbestos inspectors in your country to come and collect the samples of the asbestos for inspector periodically. This is very important for asbestos popcorn ceilings because they contain friable asbestos which is normally sprayed on the ceiling surface.
  5. Do not use asbestos in an environment where children will be living. The activities of the children could include tampering with the asbestos material and causing the particles to fly out.
  6. Allow experts to install and remove your asbestos materials.
  7. Obey all the local laws regarding the safe handling of asbestos.
  8. Always ensure that waste materials of asbestos are either buried or soaked inside the water to avoid flying out into the environment.
  9. Asbestos is not harmful if incorporated into material and not disturbed. In this case, those in the environment are safe.
  10. Safely encapsulate any Popcorn Ceiling in your Home by painting or texturing on the surface.
  11. Be cautious of the hazard when working in any factory that produces asbestos and strictly follow their safety guidelines.
  12. When handling the Popcorn finish, ensure your nose and mouth are not uncovered.
  13. As an electrician, plumber, or ductwork, etc. do not drill into popcorn ceilings while trying to carry out your work.


Despite being a toxic material that is harmful to human health, uses of asbestos has numerous advantages that made it possible to stand out against other materials. Among them are:


One of the main reasons for the diverse uses of asbestos is because Asbestos has great fire-resistant properties, in other words, asbestos hardly got burnt by fire.

This property of asbestos made early applications of asbestos to be wide-ranging from fire-proof spraying powder on doors, ceilings, roofs, and cabinets to fire-proof boards, etc.


Among existing materials that can do what asbestos can do, asbestos happens to be the lightest in terms of weight in an equal mass of other materials. And this has been one of the main reasons for the diverse uses of asbestos.

This property extended the application even further to areas of engineering where weight is a serious factor.

Aviation industries, shipping industries, and automobile industries buy the idea of applying asbestos in the areas they can be used in their products.


Durability is one of the main reasons for the diverse uses of asbestos. This is the most outstanding property of asbestos. It has been the most durable material when compared to its weight, appearance, and life span of other materials with similar properties.

The durability of asbestos made it possible to be used in wider applications, especially in building and construction works.


Asbestos is readily available in the market, which is one of the main reasons for the diverse uses of asbestos. Easy to get a good bargain with merchants.

In general view, asbestos products seem to be cheaper with good discounts from merchants.  Places like the United States and Nigeria have asbestos of various kinds in their local markets.


While other materials will require support, surface finishing, fireproofing installation, etc. asbestos material always has an easy installation procedure and does not require special tools and extra materials during installations.

A good example is the installation of asbestos roofing sheets which takes a few wood skeletons and a few fixing screws which is also one of the main reasons for the diverse uses of asbestos.


The ability of asbestos to appear in powder form made it possible to be sprayed on surfaces of any material to serve as fire-proofing support to the material another property that increases the diverse uses of asbestos.

However, despite all these numerous advantages, asbestos has been found to be unfriendly to human health, thus, making it one of the criticized materials despite the good properties it came to offer to humans.

According to the publication by Stephanie Kidd on, she said;  “It was during this time that asbestos was hailed as a wonder material—non-flammable, durable, lightweight, inexpensive and can be added to a wide variety of materials as a fire-proofer. Sadly, the material has instead been found to cause health problems and has claimed the lives of the people it was supposed to protect.”

Stephanie also noted that the United States Government in the year 1977 prohibited the use of asbestos on ceiling surfaces and that new buildings henceforth should not contain asbestos. She noted that it could still be possible that asbestos manufactured after the declaration had been made in 1977 was still installed in buildings since many are already on the market and some were still in companies’ warehouses.


Despite the diverse uses of asbestos, the harm it can do to human health still challenges its applications. Below is the list of classifications of asbestos in accordance with the hazard.


Friable asbestos can easily break into small particles if aged or faced vibrations or crumbled with hands. This type of asbestos material has been placed under category 1 of Unite States agency in terms of toxicity and hazard to human health. This limits the diverse uses of asbestos.

The uncontrollable ways this type of asbestos can inject particles into the air have made it impossible to allow its continuous use. Hence, the use of category 1 asbestos had been banned in the United States since 1977.


This is classified under category 2 of asbestos materials. It is moderately safe because it is not sprayed on surfaces but rather incorporated into other materials during manufacturing.

Other application includes; the inclusion in cementing, and solid materials such as tiles, roofing sheets, doors, boards, etc. the product with this type of asbestos keeps the asbestos particles secured and intact inside it and will remain like that as long as the materials life span has not been reached or its parts got damaged.

A floor slab with asbestos inclusion is a good example.

The above actually places a limit on the diverse uses of asbestos.




Uses of asbestos
The uses of asbestos

One of the basic uses of Asbestos is the Asbestos ceiling. The Asbestos ceilings are usually in the form of a flat board with squared sides. The four sides of the flat board design could be 3feet by 3feet square or 2feet by 2feet square. The two sizes had been in the market a very long time.

Asbestos ceilings have a lot of advantages over the modern PVC ceilings and even the wooden ceiling used in ancient houses. Besides its fireproofing capacity, the asbestos ceilings are very good in keeping the house cool. They can shield the entire heat coming from the sun from penetrating into the house.

For safety reasons, some houses that use other types of ceilings usually have asbestos ceilings installed in the bathrooms, laundries, garages, and the toilets, etc. the reason for the installation is based on the fact that if a fire outbreak occurs in these areas there may not be anyone around to attend to it, hence, using the asbestos ceiling helps to shield the fire from entering into the house or spreading further.

Asbestos ceilings are the most common ceiling in Nigerian Markets of building materials and had been the most common ceiling before the PVC ceilings and POP ceilings in the modern buildings in Nigeria.

Before now the majority of the building in the 19th and 20th centuries and even the early 21st century have asbestos ceilings installed inside.

Asbestos ceilings are of different types, they can be found as:

Cement sheet asbestos,

asbestos insulating board,

Asbestos Ceiling tiles, and

Sprayed insulation is known as Popcorn asbestos ceiling.

Popcorn ceilings: known as acoustic or textured ceilings or Popcorn Asbestos Ceilings are known for their special texture. It is one of the basic uses of Asbestos in the area of making ceilings.

In the early 1930s to 1990s builders prefer this type of ceiling due to the unique surface finishing and good appearance it offers and its ability to dampen Noise and Visibilities.

Popcorn ceiling has the advantages of covering unfinished surfaces in the ceiling, hiding imperfections or mistakes, and absorbing noise and sounds.

However, this type of ceiling usually contains sprayed or friable asbestos which has become a major problem that made builders drop its usage.



One of the basic uses of Asbestos in the making of Asbestos Roofing sheets. The Asbestos roofing sheets otherwise known as Fibrous Cement sheets are more durable than the drywalls and not hard to work on when compared to concrete.

The roofing sheet has found its applications in modern engineering which can be said to be a clear indication of the extensive uses of asbestos. However, modern asbestos roofing sheets are made with cellulose. Cellulose is a substance from plants.

While the old asbestos roofing sheets were primarily made with asbestos, the modern asbestos roofing sheets are not primarily asbestos rather a cellulose material from plants.

The reason for this change is to reduce the potential risks that asbestos can impose to the surrounding.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be fluffed into a wooly consistency and mixed into building materials such as cement.

The addition of asbestos into cement results in durability, fireproofing, and heat resistance.


The uses of asbestos can be extended to the making of various roofing sheets from asbestos which is highlighted below:

The Corrugated asbestos roofing sheet

This is one of the extensive applications/uses of Asbestos. This type has the appearance of corrugated zinc roofing sheet (corrugated metal panel) design. It has the same size of about 3feet by 6 feet in width and length respectively.

This type of asbestos sheet find its application in roofing of buildings. Because of its durability property, fireproofing, noise-absorbing, light weight, and strength, the roofing sheet is preferred over its major rival which corrugated metal panel.

As stated earlier the modern ones are not primarily made with asbestos.

Asbestos flat sheets

These Asbestos flat sheets are another extensive applications/uses of asbestos in roofing projects. It is usually made with asbestos cement which is known for water resistant properties than drywall.

The asbestos flat sheet is a flat sheet of asbestos cement product and is used mostly for internal parts of building for instance in interiors of homes, also in interiors of offices as walls and underlayment in flooring.

Asbestos Lumber (Asbestos Cement Sheathing)

The uses of asbestos can be found in the making of Asbestos Lumber. It is fireproof and electrically nonconductive asbestos that can be assumed to be a product of wood.

Asbestos Lumber is not a product of wood rather it has a quality superior to wood. Strong but soft enough to be worked like natural lumber.

This material finds its application in the base of roofing and siding materials like shingles & false brick facing.

According to Daniel King’s publication on products page of, the following companies are found to be major producers of asbestos:

CelotexCareycel Insulated Sheathing


Careystone Corrugated Asbestos Cement

Careystone Flat Asbestos Cement

Keasby & Mattison CompanyAmbler Asbestos Corrugated Sheathing


Ambler Corrugated Roofing and Siding

Century Asbestos Corrugated Roofing

GAF CorporationPanelstone Asbestos Cement Sheeting
National Gypsum CompanyGold Bond Corrugated Roofing
Johns ManvilleTransite Corrugated Roofing and Siding
 Other Manufacturers are:


·         Asbestone Corporation

·         Asbestos Shingle Slate & Sheathing Co.

·         Atlas Asbestos Company

·         Baldwin-Ehret-Hill

·         CertainTeed Corporation

·         Durabla Manufacturing Company

·         Eagle-Picher

·         Eternit

·         Flintkote Company

·         Garlock, Inc.

·         James Hardie Industries

·         Philip Carey Manufacturing Corporation

·         U.S. Gypsum


The basic uses of Asbestos

From the general discovery, those at risk of inhaling asbestos particles are:

Factory/construction workers have access to asbestos materials,

Building demolition crews,


Military Personnel and technicians,



The basic uses of Asbestos

One of the basic uses of Asbestos in the making of floor tiles. These are floor tiles made with either wholly asbestos materials or with the inclusion of a good quantity of asbestos materials.

They are the products that bear the classification of the category 2 asbestos materials. Less risky, non-friable, non-toxic, and will not make any change under vibration.

However, if such products encounter demolition, piercing, or drilling on the surface asbestos particle will fly out into the environment.

How to identify Floor tiles with Asbestos

  1. Conducting a test on your floor tiles is the major way of knowing if the tiles contain asbestos. The test can be carried out using a test kit or by hiring an accredited asbestos inspector in your area.
  2. Another way you can know if your house floor tiles have asbestos is to check the age of the house. Houses built before the 1980s mostly contain asbestos in their floor tiles.
  3. Another way of knowing is by the sizes of the floor tiles. Floor tiles in 9inch, 12inch or 18inch squares can possibly contain asbestos.
  4. The appearance of the floor tiles is another consideration. If the floor tiles appear oily or stained it could be a sign of the presence of asbestos. Asphalt a major ingredient in asbestos tiles usually look grimy or spottily discolored when it has degraded in tiles.
  5. Floor tiles that use black mastic material referred to as “cutback adhesive” for gripping purposes during ground surface installation can be said to contain asbestos. The black mastic material was an asphalt-based material and most likely contain asbestos. Floor tile using the adhesive already has the element of asbestos even though the floor tile itself may not have an asbestos element.


  1. Ensuring the surface is coated with another layer of material will help to protect the surface from tiny cracks that may not visible.
  2. Checking the sign of damage and removing it is another safe approach
  3. Placing carpets on top of the floor tiles is another safe way of securing the tiles.
  4. Keeping secured from reactive chemicals that can damage the surfaces of the floor tiles and expose their inner particles.
  5. Always follow safe practices while making any adjustment, removal or installation of the floor tiles.
  6. If there is no special purpose or reason to use asbestos floor tiles, use other types of floor tiles.


  1. Put on the necessary PPEs such as a nose respirator, eye goggles, hard hat, and disposable coverall.
  2. Close the windows, doors, and shut down your air conditions before carrying out any work on the floor tiles. This will ensure the particles are contained within the room.
  3. Use a water pump sprayer to spray water in the room and reduce the tendency of allowing the fiber particles to fly in the air.
  4. Carefully remove the floor tiles one after another to avoid raising dust.
  5. Dispose of the waste appropriately as required by the local laws.
  6. Mob up the floor and ensure everywhere is totally clean and free from asbestos particles before reopening the windows, and doors, and turning the air conditioner on.



One of the basic uses of Asbestos is making fireproof doors. Asbestos fire doors are usually made with an asbestos layer on the surfaces to prevent the door from fire penetration.

It offers a high level of fire resistance, however, its application has been cut down due to the mentioned dangers associated with the use of asbestos.

According to Brayton Purcell in,  B-class and C-class fire doors often contain large amounts of asbestos in their white/gray mineral cores during their production time in the 1960s and 1970s.

Machining these types of doors exposes those in the surrounding to asbestos particles.

Safety precautions associated with these asbestos doors are similar to those listed in the Asbestos floor tiles safety precautions.

Philip Nduka

Philip is a graduate of Mechanical engineering and an NDT inspector with vast practical knowledge in other engineering fields, and software.

He loves to write and share information relating to engineering and technology fields, science and environmental issues, and Technical posts. His posts are based on personal ideas, researched knowledge, and discovery, from engineering, science & investment fields, etc.

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