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What Does Asbestos Look Like?

Insulating Existing Walls

Asbestos was partially banned in the United States in 1989. The law made it illegal to use the cancer-causing mineral in new ways. Despite this, the federal government has not imposed a ban on buildings, residences, or products that have already been constructed or made with the carcinogen. The majority of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were also not removed from circulation forcibly. As a result, asbestos contamination testing can still detect dangerous amounts of asbestos in tens of thousands of houses and household products across the United States.

ACM is commonly encountered by homeowners and construction personnel during the remodeling of older structures. You can’t tell if anything is asbestos-contaminated just by looking at it. Some products (such as electrical fuse boxes) contain an ACM warning label, while many do not.

Under a microscope, three forms of asbestos (crocidolite, amosite, and chrysotile) appear as blue, brown, or white filaments. The fibers, on the other hand, are usually too small to perceive with the human eye. Furthermore, they are so light that they can float in the air for days.

Asbestos is often found in:

  • Adhesives
  • Bathroom tile
  • Boilers
  • Bricks
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cement
  • Cladding
  • Drywall
  • Exterior siding
  • Fibro
  • Fire blankets
  • Fireproofed rope
  • Gas meter panels
  • Insulation
  • Kitchen tiles
  • Paints
  • Partitions
  • Pipes and lagging
  • Plaster
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Shingles
  • Soffits
  • Textured paint
  • Weatherboard
  • Windowsills

Is it Possible to Detect Asbestos Through Smell?

The stench can sometimes indicate that your home is contaminated. Gas leaks and some types of mold produce scents that are apparent. Asbestos, on the other hand, has no odor. There is no odor in rooms when the carcinogen is built into the floors, walls, or ceiling. Even large quantities of asbestos dust have no odor or smell like ordinary dust.

People, on the other hand, inhale tiny (almost invisible) asbestos particles through their nose or mouth. These particles stick to tissues in the chest and stomach inside the body. Asbestos cannot be removed through surgery or any other method once it has entered the body.

Testing for Asbestos

The only way to confirm the presence of asbestos is to conduct a contamination test. Typically, asbestos is tested by specialists who have been trained to handle ACM without spreading it. Before construction can resume, asbestos abatement (removal) may be required, depending on the level of exposure. When building materials (such as walls, plumbing, and electrical wiring) are not damaged or moved by remodeling, older properties do not require asbestos testing. Do not alter the material if you suspect it contains asbestos, but it is still in good shape.

Using Asbestos Detection Professionals

Each state controls the use and disposal of ACM in addition to the legislation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most county and city services websites list state-approved asbestos testing professionals. To avoid a conflict of interest, make sure the person or company you employ for the evaluation isn’t affiliated with the asbestos abatement or removal company. Also, double-check their asbestos training (documented by an official federal or state board).

If I Inhaled Asbestos, What Should I Do?

Side effects from hazardous exposure can take years or decades to manifest. Symptoms of asbestos-related ailments include abdominal swelling, recurrent fever, and a chronic cough.

Asbestos-related diseases include:

  • Asbestosis
  • Colon cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pleural plaques
  • Rectal cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Throat cancer

Asbestos exposure causes no immediate symptoms. As a result, you may not be aware of your carcinogen exposure right away (or for years). Those who have inhaled asbestos and are concerned about their health should be examined. Patients with mesothelioma who are diagnosed early have a better chance of receiving therapy.

Asbestos, OSHA & AHERA Training Via Classroom & Online

The Asbestos Institute has provided EPA and Cal/OSHA-accredited safety training since 1988. From OSHA 10 to hazmat training and asbestos certification, our trusted and experienced instructors make sure participants get the high-quality initial and refresher training they need.


We train on-site at our headquarters in Phoenix, AZ or at our clients’ sites across the U.S. We offer both English and Spanish courses. Browse Classroom Classes


Online courses allow you to align your learning with your personal schedule. This is a great option for students with family and work commitments. Browse Online Classes


Live webinars allow you to watch instructors on demand from the comfort of your home or office. Learn, chat with other students, and ask questions in real-time. Browse Live Webinars


The Asbestos Institute is not the official authority to determine OSHA training requirements, which are set forth in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA regulations are always being revised, added, and/or deleted, so you must not rely on The Asbestos Institute as the official authority of OSHA asbestos training requirements. Visit the official OSHA Asbestos Training Requirements page here.

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