Types of asbestos-containing material

Asbestos has been used in the manufacturing of various products. These products can be found in either friable or non-friable form. All products are also known as asbestos-containing material.

Friable asbestos

Friable asbestos products are generally quite loose and, when dry, can be crumbled into fine material or dust with light pressure, such as crushing with your hand. These products usually contain high levels of asbestos (up to 100% in some cases), which is loosely held in the product and asbestos fibres can be easily released into the air.

If disturbed, friable asbestos products are dangerous because the asbestos fibres can get into the air very easily, and may be inhaled by people living or working in the area.

Non-friable asbestos products that have been damaged or badly weathered (including hail damage), may also become friable.

How were friable asbestos products used?

Friable asbestos products have been commonly used in commercial and industrial settings since the late 1800's for fireproofing, soundproofing and insulation. Some friable products were also used in houses and may still be found in houses built before 1990.

Examples of friable asbestos-containing material include:

  • pipe lagging
  • boiler insulation
  • fire retardant material on steel work
  • sprayed insulation.

Non-friable (bonded) asbestos

Non-friable asbestos products are made from a bonding compound (such as cement) mixed with a small proportion (usually less than 15%) of asbestos. Non-friable asbestos products are solid, rigid and non-friable, and cannot be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure. The asbestos fibres are tightly bound in the product and are not normally released into the air.

Common names for non-friable asbestos cement products are 'fibro', 'asbestos cement' and 'AC sheeting'.

When they're in good condition, non-friable asbestos products do not normally release any asbestos fibres into the air. They are considered a very low risk for people who are in contact with them, as long as appropriate safety precautions are used when they are disturbed.

However, when non-friable asbestos products are damaged or badly weathered (including hail damage), they may become friable.

Examples of non-friable asbestos-containing material include:

  • asbestos cement sheet
  • asbestos cement moulded products
  • bitumen-based water proofing
  • vinyl floor tiles.

Examples of non-friable asbestos-containing material that can become friable as a result of a work process include:

  • asbestos cement sheeting that has been crushed
  • asbestos cement sheeting that has deteriorated from long-term exposure to a chemical mist.

For more asbestos-containing products examples, see the A-Z of asbestos-containing materials . Or, use the Finding & identifying asbestos tool to find out about the likelihood, location and type of asbestos-containing products in your home or workplace.