Asbestos — an often invisible danger

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Actually it's a natural rock

Asbestos is a collective term for various naturally occurring silicate minerals. These include grunerite, anthophyllite, actinolite and chrysotil. The fibrous material was popular both in construction and industry because of its durability, fire resistance and because it could be easily processed in cement.

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Tiny fibers under an electron microscope

Visible here are asbestos' signature tiny fibers, some of which are only three micrometers thick. Here is a sample of a chrysotile. These fibers are not soluble and could therefore remain in the lungs for a very long time. They can still cause lung cancer decades after you've inhaled them.

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Don't touch it!

Corrugated asbestos must not be sawed, cut, drilled, ground up or broken. As long as it's not touched, there is no danger of fibers being released into the air. But even cleaning is taboo. Anyone who tries to remove the moss with a high-pressure cleaner would be committing crimes against the environment and endangering their own health.

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Pretty flower box or hazardous waste?

A flower box made of fiber cement, also called Eternit or asbestos cement. Here cement and asbestos combine to form a resistant but toxic building material. This box may continue to be used. However, when working with a shovel or a rake, one should be careful not to scratch the container. If you want to get rid of it, you have to dispose of it as hazardous waste.

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Blocked drain? Call in the specialists

Pros repaired this clogged pipe. If you ever have drain problems with asbestos cement pipes, don't ask for a simple plumber. In a case like this, strict asbestos removal regulations need to be observed — it's time to call a specialist!

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Toxic floor covering

Such "Floor-Flex" panels can be found in many homes today. Almost all of them contain asbestos. Here, too, safety can only be guaranteed by a laboratory test. So don't just rip the panels out and toss them in the trash. Often such floor coverings are also fastened with adhesives containing asbestos. Caution: don't try to get rid of the glue by yourself!

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Careful when sanding

There are often materials containing asbestos hidden under old floor coverings. If you have removed "Floor Flex" panels and find black, bituminous adhesive, take special care. The glue almost certainly also contains asbestos. Never sand it down on your own!

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Don't try this at home!

Here the author of this gallery during the renovation of his house. A floor and ceiling had to be removed entirely because the beams were rotten. Was there any asbestos in the dusty air? It's better not to ask!

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The car workshop as danger zone

Until 1989, car brake linings still contained asbestos - in high concentrations. It's possible that some of these brake pads are still in use in old cars today. Car mechanics who change brake linings and then clean the brakes with air pressure are particularly at risk. Many fibres get into the air in the workshop, which is a life-threatening hazard.

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Cute collector's item or hazardous waste?

Probably a case for hazardous waste. Under no circumstances should you use an older hairdryer, not even one from the 1970s. What does a hair dryer have to do with asbestos? The material is extremely heat resistant and was therefore often used as thermal insulation in the manufacturing of these ancient devices.

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Look-alike design is better than actual vintage

The design may be fashionable again, but if you want to eat toast prepared by such an elegant toaster, you'd better go for a new one with a retro look. This will ensure that the supports for the heating wires are not made of asbestos. A device like this shouldn't even have a spot in your antiques cabinet.

We know of many components that obviously contain asbestos: building cladding or corrugated sheet roofs. But not all the dangers are visible. These tiny toxic fibers also hide in places where you wouldn't expect them.