We currently have 163 questions under the tag, with the majority of them asking for identification of asbestos in some object based on a photograph. I counted 35 in the 50 most recently asked asbestos questions.

Some recent examples:

Asbestos is a microscopic fiber, so answers to these questions generally read something like:

  1. The only way to know for sure is if you send a sample to an asbestos testing lab to be tested.

Sometimes qualified with:

  1. The thing you photographed was sometimes made with asbestos. See #1 above.

Given that we can't identify asbestos from the photographs given, should we make this type of question off-topic?

This would limit the scope of the tag to questions about if the OP should deal with it themselves, how to deal with it if found, interpretation of test results, etc. To help guide users to the correct usage, we could set up a tag warning -- a popup that appears when you try to use a particular tag -- with information about this policy.


3 Answers 3


An elegant way to handle recurring questions would be to write a generic Q/A on how to proceed if something may or may not be made from asbestos, that can serve as duplicate target.

Roughly following this pattern:


I have found some building material that I suspect could be asbestos. How should I proceed to get an identification and to protect my personal health?


Asbestos is a microscopic fiber, which can’t be identified by visual inspection. Only testing in a lab can give a definitive answer.
If you need to handle the material [blurb about basic protection measures].
[Optional: A paragraph about the difference of exposed to the air vs. completely covered suspicious material.]

This Q/A can also be included in the Help Center, tag descriptions or pop-ups.

As opposed to simply making the question off-topic, the asker will still get the necessary information instead of being simply sent away.

  • (Answer inspired by how SA handles some food safety questions, see here or here.)
    – Stephie
    May 8, 2020 at 15:39

I'm not sure there's many useful asbestos questions for the DIYer anyways


Testing means you have to go get a sample and send it off. There's no DIY method for this that's safe. Disturbing asbestos is dangerous.


Again, disturbing asbestos is dangerous. You'd be insane to try and do this yourself. Even if you did manage to remove it and not make yourself sick, safe disposal is a major problem in many areas.

Now what?

What I would suggest is that we make a single canonical answer for the DIYer who wants to identify asbestos and then retag the salvageable ones as and close and delete the useless ones (like the flower pot). Thus we burninate the tag for being off-topic.


Since I am not always convinced that the tags carry that much weight with users I might rather suggest that we should add a detail type list of question examples that are against site policy to the Tour pages.

  • Tag excerpts carry little weight. The existence of a tag tends to lead people to ask questions like that (hence why I despise overly simplistic tags, or arcane acronym tags). We should probably historical lock a few good ones and burninate the tag.
    – Machavity
    May 9, 2020 at 3:00

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