Short Answer: No, you generally cannot smell or even taste asbestos. One of the things that makes asbestos so dangerous is you can be breathing or swallowing it without knowing.

All Types of Asbestos Generally Have No Taste or Smell 

Asbestos fibers can be microscopic, too small to see. But asbestos has no real smell or taste, and does not cause an immediate bodily reaction. In fact, after you have been exposed to asbestos, asbestos illnesses can take up to fifty years to appear.

Learning More About Asbestos (and How to Avoid Its Dangers)

How Many Types of Asbestos Are There?

Asbestos is a category of minerals found below the surface of the earth. You can find asbestos in asbestos-rich rock and soil deposits

There are six types of asbestos belonging to the amphibole and serpentine mineral families. The amphibole mineral has five types and the serpentine mineral has one.

Can You Smell Asbestos And Detect It?

Though asbestos has many properties, a distinct smell is not one of them. Many times, you can say what a product contains by smelling it. For instance, if a food item contains fish, you can smell it and say it contains fish. Can you smell asbestos and detect it? No, you cannot smell a product that contains asbestos and detect it because asbestos does not have a distinct smell. 

Asbestos in its natural form will take on the smell of the material that contained it. For instance, the smells of soil, rock, and insulation, if found in them. 

Can You Identify Asbestos By its Color?

You can identify only natural asbestos by its color. Asbestos can come in colors, such as brown, blue, dark green, yellow, and white. 

However, once the asbestos goes into a product, such as floor tiles, building materials, and construction materials, you cannot identify asbestos in them.

What Are The Common Types Of Asbestos?

The most common type of asbestos is the chrysotile asbestos. A variety of products made in the U.S. use chrysotile asbestos, including nearly every building constructed before the 1980s. Over 90 to 95% of all products made in the U.S. contain chrysotile asbestos fibers.

Why Is Asbestos Dangerous To You?

Asbestos is a dangerous substance that can cause many health issues. The danger is through inhaling very small asbestos fibers and dust. These fibers are so small that you cannot see them with your naked eyes. You need an optical microscope or an electron microscope to detect asbestos. 

The other problem is that you cannot smell asbestos, even if asbestos fibers are present in the air. Since this is the case, you will not even know that you have inhaled asbestos if you have been around airborne fibers. 

“The overall evidence suggests there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.”

Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH) 1

What Are The Symptoms Of Asbestos Exposure?

If you have inhaled asbestos fibers, you will likely not have any symptoms at all. The symptoms will develop over a long period (up to 40 years after sustained exposure) and if you work in a place where there is asbestos exposure, your risk of serious health conditions is usually very high.  

The most common disease that you can suffer from asbestos is asbestosis, which is a non-cancerous disease in which scars appear on lung tissues. Some people can also suffer from cancers like lung cancer or mesothelioma, which is an aggressive and dangerous cancer of the lining of organs, such as the lungs and the stomach, that has no cure. Asbestos is the sole cause of this deadly cancer.  

When Is Asbestos Not Dangerous?

Asbestos is usually not dangerous as long as it stays in the product undisturbed. 

The problem arises when someone disturbs or destroys asbestos containing material (ACM). When this happens, very minute asbestos fibers and dust float in the air without your knowledge. You can then inhale this air and the asbestos fibers settle on the lung tissues leading to health conditions. 

You will likely know of the effect only after a very long time, even up to fifty years. This is known as a latency. Sometimes, it is too late, as the disease would have settled down in your body. Even one exposure to asbestos can be dangerous, as has been confirmed by the National Cancer Institute.2

How Do You Protect Against Asbestos Harm and Illness?

The hazardous effects of asbestos have motivated over 60 countries to ban the use of asbestos completely. Some countries, such as the U.S., China, and Russia have not yet banned the use. 

Apart from banning the use of asbestos, all countries also regulate the process of removal of asbestos from old buildings and various products.    

You can find the laws relating to asbestos here.  

How Can You Identify Asbestos?

The only way to identify asbestos is through qualified, trained and licensed asbestos experts. They use scientific methods to collect samples and test them at labs using high tech microscopes. 

You should never try to remove asbestos by yourself. It is very dangerous to your health and the health of anyone living in your place. You could also be violating state and federal laws.

There are laws for removing asbestos from old buildings and ACMs.

Remember, you cannot detect asbestos by smell or color or taste. 

You need high tech labs and microscopes to detect asbestos. Therefore, it is safe for you to engage a qualified person to detect and remove the dangerous material.     


If you may have been exposed to asbestos, speak with your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related damage.

AsbestosClaims.Law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information is helpful.

If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information.

And if you believe that you were exposed to asbestos, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness, you could be entitled to significant compensation – money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

All without filing a lawsuit.

If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.



1 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.
2 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.