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School in South Korea removed asbestos over the past few weeks. Now I am all paranoid.

Is this asbestos? Found these dime-sized chunks by my desk.

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Higher resolution images are available here:

http://imgur.com/a/5e1dZ

There should be 4 pics. If not clear enough let me know.

  • Please add the photos to your question so that we don't have to go off-site to see them. Instructions: meta.diy.stackexchange.com/questions/523/… – Niall C. Aug 20 '15 at 1:20
  • Sorry I can't seem to be able to upload images from my phone. I'll be home in a few hours and try using my PC. – user41630 Aug 20 '15 at 1:23
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Nobody can tell you whether or not that is ACM (asbestos containing material) by the pictures. You have to send it to a lab to know for sure.

Does it look like other ACM I have encountered? Yes

Will it hurt you if you wet it, bag it, and throw it away? No

Could it hurt you if you keep it laying around on your desk taking pictures of it and handling it? Probably not, but you should throw it away and stop stressing out

It takes time (think repeated/prolonged occupational exposure) for adverse health effects due to asbestos exposure.

Dust would be your biggest concern, especially for children. It is in what is called a friable state, meaning easily becomes airborne and inhaled. As a precaution, in the absence of lab results, it should be handled wet, like moistened with a water spray and mopped up while wearing a particulate respirator (a regular dust mask is not recommended). Alternatively, it can be vacuumed using a HEPA filter with the aforementioned respirators. Wear disposable coveralls (we use Tyvek™) and bag those and dispose as well. In the U.S.A., for confirmed ACM, this activity is regulated and may only be performed by specially trained and licensed personnel due to likelihood of repeated occupational exposure, and the waste is treated as hazardous.

  • Thank you for your reply. My main concern is if it is indeed asbestos, and they're leaving these chunks of it on the classroom floor, then what about the unseen dust? Is that a potential hazard? Further, theres dust all over the school in the classrooms. People are using normal vacuum cleaners. – user41630 Aug 20 '15 at 2:40
  • I edited my answer to address your comment. – Jimmy Fix-it Aug 20 '15 at 4:04
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Keep in mind that in South Korea people generally don't worry about asbestos. There is no government regulation really to speak of, no licensing or training available to people removing asbestos and thus little / no safety precautions taken in most cases. You can find many sources to support my claims. Here is just one: http://worldasbestosreport.org/articles/killing_future/Korea_experience.php

It is very likely that if this is ACM, there were zero precautions taken in it's removal. Which means, there is likely asbestos covering many objects over the room and being stirred up by normal day to day activities and thus, breathed in by people in that class room.

Maybe your pictures are of ACM, maybe they are not. I agree with the previous poster, they do look like ACM which I've handled previously. I do NOT agree with other posters that it necessarily takes time and repeated/prolonged exposure to put you at greater risk of mesothelioma than someone who is not exposed at all. While studies prove that prolonged exposure increases the risks, you are not devoid of risk from shorter exposures by any means. There are many cases of people who worked around asbestos for only periods of weeks developing mesothelioma 15 - 20 years later. My point being, you should avoid all exposure to asbestos whenever possible.

There are risks to traveling to other countries which are not as concerned with everyday health hazards as we are. Consider yourself fortunate you are traveling to these places and experiencing wonderful things. Weigh that with the fact that there are always risks. What action you choose to take when there is an apparent risk is up to you. Do you simply leave / not participate in anything where there is a seemingly obvious risk like what you've just described? Do you take the sample and test it to put your mind at ease? Do you clean the area and abate assuming it was asbestos and then forget about it? No one can tell you exactly what to do. All we can tell you is this:

Trial and error has proven that Asbestos can be pretty dangerous stuff. It's not like you're just breathing in second hand cigarette smoke for a few weeks, it's most definitely a little worse than that. On the grand scale of people who get mesothelioma, I think most would agree it's pretty minimal risk based on what you described but there are many factors I don't know. How long are you at this school? Is there additional construction going on or is it all over? How well did they clean up (appears not well).

  • Thanks for the replies. I will be working at the school 12 hours a week for the next six months. The whole school had its asbestos removed so there is dust everywhere. I saw teachers using household vacuum cleaners to clean up the dust. My pencil sharpener is covered in dust. Many materials and books are covered in dust. Maybe it's time to jump ship. I am worried about the teachers and kids that have no idea :/ – user41630 Aug 22 '15 at 13:35
  • Sounds like about the worst scenario I can imagine... I'd be gone in a heartbeat. – maplemale Aug 22 '15 at 17:01
  • They claim it's gypsum board. I have no idea what that is. Is possible it's gypsum board? – user41630 Aug 23 '15 at 9:05
  • Gypsum board normally means drywall. Was pretty common for many types of drywall material post-world-war II to contain asbestos. Only way to know is to have it tested. Although, if what post 1980 drywall, it's unlikely to contain any. It's not very expensive (less than $100 including shipping) and you can mail a sample in. There are dozens of labs in the US that will test it. I'm sure there are labs in neighboring countries if you can't find one in Korea. Japan takes asbestos pretty seriously and I'm sure there's labs there which might be a shorter turn-around time. – maplemale Aug 24 '15 at 16:19
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If debris like this is all around the premises, then it is certainly of MAJOR concern

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