Asbestos heating pipe insulation in poor condition Photographs of Asbestos in Good Condition

  • ASBESTOS in GOOD CONDITION - CONTENTS: How to recognize asbestos materials that are in good condition and that may be best left in place or encapsulated.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about when asbestos materials can or should be left alone & how to recognize asbestos materials that are undamaged and in good condition

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Asbestos that can often be safely left in place:

This article illustrates asbestos insulating and other products which are in good condition and discusses what to do about the asbestos material in that case.

This document assists building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify asbestos materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple visual inspection. We provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.

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Examples of Visually-recognizable Asbestos Materials in Buildings that are in Good Condition and may be able to remain in place

Asbestos ceiling tiles in good condition

While an expert lab test using polarized light microscopy may be needed to identify the specific type of asbestos fiber, or to identify the presence of asbestos in air or dust samples, many asbestos-containing building products not only are obvious and easy to recognize, but since there were not other look-alike products that were not asbestos, a visual identification of this material can be virtually a certainty in many cases.

The ceiling tiles at left may contain asbestos. They are in good condition and are not subject to mechanical damage by the occupants of the building.

If these ceiling tiles are to be removed, the demolition could release high levels of asbestos fibers - appropriate asbestos removal procedures would be wise.

Also see ASBESTOS DUCTS, HVAC a field identification guide to visual detection of asbestos in and on heating and cooling system ducts and flue vents.

Also see Micro-Photographs of Dust from the World Trade Center collapse following the 9/11/01 attack

. Links to U.S. government and other authoritative research and advice are included.

Asbestos Insulation in Good Condition on heating pipes

Photograph of asbestos pipe insulation

When asbestos pipe insulation is in good, un-damaged condition like this, and when it is found in an area not subject to mechanical damage, current advice is to leave this material alone.

However where this material was used on heating or other plumbing pipes, there remains the possibility that some of it will eventually have to be disturbed and removed when leaks occur and repairs to the piping are necessary.

Leaks in heating pipes should occur less often than in other plumbing lines, so this risk may be pretty small.

Use of asbestos for pipe coverings has been banned in the U.S. since 1975.

Tremolite asbestos on a ceiling

This ceiling fireproofing used in an office building basement storage area was readily identified as tremolite and was considered hazardous even though it was in good condition.

This product was quite friable, subject to being disturbed by ongoing work in the area, and needed professional asbestos removal.


Other examples of asbestos containing materials that might be safe to leave in place, or to leave in place after painting, sealing, or covering-over include:

Question: does this pipe insulation look like asbestos?

Felt type pipe insulation in a U.K. installation (C) D Friedman & JL

(Aug 30, 2017) Jefrla said:

I've got a query about pipe lagging which I think contains wool felt only but I'm concerned it might in fact be asbestos based. The lagging appears old (material cover with metal band, and around old pipes). When viewed end on it doesnt appear to contain any whiteish material e.g. Asbestos air cell or paper next to the pipe.

Felt type pipe insulation in a U.K. installation (C) D Friedman & JL

A licensed asbestos surveyor has come and had a quick look at it for me and said it wasn't asbestos. However the piping was well above his head height and so I wonder how accurate his brief visual assesment was. I didn't say I thought it was wool felt at the time, I just asked if it contained asbestos.

Felt type pipe insulation in a U.K. installation (C) D Friedman & JL

Assuming it to be safe I extracted a little of the material using forceps, and it does look like the images of wool felt I have found on the internet. It's quite firm and it feels and looks like a tangle of fibres in different sizes and directions. Some are curly, and they are not all the same browny colour. It does look wool like and it is not easily crumbled. It doesn't contain obvious bundles of fibres. (Can email photos).

My concern is that the surveyor might have made a mistake and that I have exposed myself to amosite fibres to a dangerous degree. Could this material be asbestos based insulation rather than wool felt (e.g caposite mounded insulation which I know contains brown amosite)? Would you expect old pipes to be insulated only with wool felt or is there likely to be some asbestos in there. If it is asbestos-containing how concerned do you think I should be if I pulled away a small sample, say 2mm by 2mm, and have immediately kept it in a sealed plastic bag?

Many thanks for any information or advice! As you can tell I'm quite worried, especially about my own actions. -

Reply: No. Let's look at the lab sample.

Felt type pipe insulation in a U.K. installation (C) D Friedman & JLI looked at your photos - and with the caveat that nobody can make a certain identification of painted-over pipe insulation just by etext and photos, I do not see the typical corrugated paper asbestos at the exposed pipe ends that would characterize traditional asbestos based pipe insulation.

There was also an asbestos paste lagging (not corrugated asbestos paper) used at pipe elbows but that would not have been used along lengths of pipe.

In several areas including in the U.K. and the U.S. companies have for some time offered various forms of felt-based pipe insulation that is an alternative to fiberglass (less annoying and irritating to work-with) to insulate new pipes or to replace asbestos pipe insulation that was removed.

From what I can see in your photos the pipe insulation is wrapped and painted - measures that keep dust and fibre release down to a minimum. The brown fibres don't look like asbestos but of course that's an imperfect assessment from photographs.

Reader follow-up:

The property is in a town on the south coast (UK). It’s approximately 130 years old.

I’m afraid I don’t know if the lagging is original or a replacement. I’m afraid the remaining areas of bare pipe along the pipe run were repainted last summer, but I’ll include a photo of both ends anyway in case it’s of any use.


I've had a look at the (really tiny) material samples that you sent to me - if these are representative of the pipe insulation about which you asked, we can say with confidence that the material is a mix of fibres including cotton, wool, and some synthetics. There was no asbestos visible in the material and there were no significant levels of sub-micron particulates that might have raised an indoor air quality or asbestos worry.

Felt type pipe insulation in a U.K. installation (C) D Friedman & JL

Attached are several lab photos of your sample in transmitted and polarized light up to 720x.

These do not resemble the tremolite asbestos about which you asked.

Felt type pipe insulation in a U.K. installation (C) D Friedman & JL Felt type pipe insulation in a U.K. installation (C) D Friedman & JL


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