What Makes Asbestos Roof Tiles Dangerous?

To understand the dangers posed by asbestos roof tiles, it’s important to discuss asbestos briefly.

What is Asbestos? Definition and Brief History

The EPA defines asbestos as a mineral fiber occurring in soil and rocks. Asbestos can also be defined as a naturally occurring substance (composed of silicate minerals) that can be released easily into the atmosphere through abrasion or other processes. Asbestos has been popular for centuries because of its countless desirable properties ranging from affordability to versatility. Asbestos is also heat and corrosion-resistant but doesn’t conduct electricity making it a perfect material for multiple applications.

Historically, asbestos has been a popular material for multiple building applications dating back centuries. Full-scale mining and use began in the 1800s. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that growing concerns increased on the use of asbestos as people who handled the substance (miners and factory workers) began suffering from lung and pulmonary diseases.

From the 70s, asbestos usage started being restricted. Ensuing decades saw asbestos become a banned substance. However, asbestos is still in use today or present in many products today, such as roofing tiles.


Types of Asbestos

There are two main types, namely chrysotile, and amphibole. Chrysotile or white asbestos is common in industrial applications. When observed under a microscope, its fibers look wrapped around themselves in a curly or spiral manner. Amphibole has needle-like and straight fibers. According to cancer.org, both types are known to cause cancer.

Asbestos roofing tiles:

What makes asbestos roof tiles dangerous?

Anything that contains asbestos, including asbestos roofing tiles is dangerous if it isn’t handled properly. If left alone/undisturbed, roofing tiles with asbestos can be safe for years. Problems arise when there is a need to move or replace asbestos roof shingles. Roofing and anything else that contains asbestos should be handled by experts only.

Asbestos roof tiles pose a serious risk if they are broken, and microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne. Asbestos shouldn’t be touched or inhaled. Exposure to asbestos is usually through inhaling or swallowing. Studies suggest that exposure to materials containing asbestos, including roof shingles, can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma (rare cancer that attacks the lining of organs such as the chest and abdomen).

How To Identify Asbestos Roof Tiles

Most roofing tiles manufactured before the early 1980s are likely to contain asbestos, among other materials. This includes mastic/bitumen based and pressed metal roofing tiles made in the 1970s. There are also roofing tiles being made today that contain asbestos. This is particularly true of tiles made in countries with poor asbestos regulation.

It’s also worth noting that “non-asbestos looking” roofs may also contain asbestos fibers mixed with other materials i.e., hydraulic cement. While asbestos can be whitish, greyish, or have similar color combinations, when mixed with other materials, it’s impossible to tell whether roofing tiles contain asbestos or not just by looking.

The surest way of confirming the presence of asbestos in roofing tiles is through sampling and testing. The roofing tiles in question should be checked by an accredited lab. A photograph of the roofing tiles can help i.e., show the likelihood of asbestos or otherwise, however, asbestos sampling and testing is the best way of proving the presence or absence.

What should you do if you have asbestos roof tiles or discover them?

If your roof is still in good shape, the asbestos in them may not pose any immediate risks. However, if the roof is old and some tiles are broken, exposing asbestos fibers, consult an asbestos expert immediately. As mentioned above, the presence of asbestos can only be confirmed through expert asbestos sampling and testing.


STEP 1: GET EXPERT HELP: If you suspect your roofing tiles contain asbestos, call an expert to sample and test your roof for asbestos.

STEP 2: TAKE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: Before your asbestos expert arrives, take the necessary safety measures. For instance, you shouldn’t consume or use rainwater collected from old or damaged asbestos roof tiles. Also, don’t attempt to touch or change the roof yourself.

STEP 3: TAKE A PHOTO: Although sampling and testing is the best way to confirm the presence of asbestos, you can send your expert a photograph of your roof for advice. In some cases, a photograph can overrule the need for an investigation.

STEP 4: MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION: Your expert should be able to recommend measures that you must take.


Since asbestos is present in many building materials and components today, including pipes, it may be more prudent to become an asbestos expert yourself. Some occupations demand asbestos expertise i.e., persons in real estate, school maintenance, housekeeping, among other occupations that involve cleaning or working in environments that may contain asbestos.

Luckily, it is possible to get asbestos expert training online. Haztrainer offers OSHA approved convenient 2-hour online asbestos awareness training & lead awareness. Haztrainer offers the most convenient and affordable way of getting OSHA approved asbestos training that is a requirement for individuals working in certain jobs/industries.

Looking For Asbestos Awareness Training Online?

Haztrainer is dedicated to providing OSHA certified training for Asbestos Awareness and Lead Awareness totally online! Our training video courses are fast, efficient, and easy to use. After you complete the training videos you can simply print out your certificate. We are now offering sample training videos for free so you can see first hand how great Haztrainer is before you commit to purchasing the entire course.