You should say "doesn't disturb it at all". It is only safe when it is
completely encapsulated and undisturbed.
20 years ago I organized a medical monitoring program for a group of
workers who had been exposed to airborne asbestos over the previous 30
years in a natural gas-fired power plant when insulation was being
installed. We interviewed the workers and checked their employment
records, where they had worked in the plant, doing what, and for how
long. We classified their exposure into several categories ranging from
occasional light to frequent heavy. We tested their lung function, did
x-rays, and followed them into retirement. Several died from diseases
caused by asbestos exposure, including some who had only "light-
Even a little bit of asbestos can be too much.
I was responding to the statement:
"Tearing up vinyl asbestos tile is considered
a bad idea, but covering it with anything else should be just fine if it
doesn't disturb it unduly."
Encapsulated asbestos poses no danger. But when one releases asbestos
fibres into the air by cutting, drilling, etc, there is a risk. If that
risk can be avoided, it should be. Breathing in just one fibre of the
wrong kind of asbestos is enough to cause mesothelioma, which is
Perhaps I'm overly concerned, but following the lives of people who have
been exposed to airborne asbestos, and seeing how many died from that
exposure, will do that to you. When we can control our exposure by
taking simple precautions, it's wise to do so.
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