Asbestos can feel like a scary word. All the news about it and the dangers it presents are real, but there are some key things to know before you start to panic.
It Was Used A Lot
- It has been used in products for over 100 years due to its durability and heat resistance. Asbestos was used frequently in homes and buildings constructed before 1980. It was commonly used in building materials, heat-resistant fabrics, manufactured goods, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.
- In the home asbestos may be found in the following:
- vinyl floor tiles
- roof and siding shingles
- attic and wall insulation
- ceiling tiles
- broilers and pipes
- HVAC duct insulation
- oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
It’s Difficult To Spot
- You cannot see, smell, or taste asbestos. The fibers are too small to identify without the use of a microscope and thus require testing in a lab to determine exposure.
- A trained and accredited asbestos professional will be able to evaluate your home for asbestos exposure and conduct tests to determine if you have a problem.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidelines and information about how to collect asbestos samples for testing. It is highly recommended that a certified asbestos professional is hired to minimize exposure and to do the job safely and efficiently.
It’s Dangerous When Damaged
- Homes built before the 1980’s will most likely have asbestos. However, it’s important to note that asbestos isn’t dangerous until it is damaged or moved. If your home is in good shape, you may not have to worry too much, but you may want to have it removed to avoid any potential problems.
- Asbestos exposure most often occurs during projects involving demolition, remodeling, repair, and maintenance. If you suspect your home may have asbestos, it is highly recommended that you have your home evaluated by a trained and accredited asbestos professional before starting any home projects. An outside lab test will be the best way to determine if there is a problem.
It’s Still Around Today
- In the 1970’s it was discovered that asbestos fibers could break off, with damage or movement, allowing particles to float through the air and become ingested into the lungs. Exposure over time could lead to serious and even fatal lung diseases.
- Today asbestos is classified as a carcinogen and has been removed from common household products and construction materials.
- There are products and materials that still use trace amounts today, but they must be labeled. Most homes built before 1980 most likely contain asbestos from products and materials used in the building process. However, asbestos does not become dangerous unless it is damaged or moved, releasing fibers into the air.
It Can Cause Serious Health Problems
- While exposure to asbestos fibers is dangerous, the risks for developing a disease depend on several accompanying factors. Those include how much asbestos was in the air, how long the exposure occurred, how much time has passed since exposure began, the presence of pre-existing lung or breathing conditions, and tobacco use.
- The most common non-cancer diseases caused by asbestos ingestion include asbestosis and pleural disease. Asbestosis is often associated with those who have had very high exposures over a long time. Symptoms may take years to manifest. It is a serious, progressive disease that causes scarring in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Pleural Disease causes changes of the membrane surrounding the lungs and chest. It can also cause difficulty breathing.
- Asbestos exposure can greatly increase the risks of certain cancers including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that thins the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart linings. Typically signs of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 40 years after exposure.
- Current studies are also linking asbestos exposure to certain types of cancer of the larynx, ovary, stomach, and colorectum.
There are dangers when it comes to asbestos. Avoiding risk comes from having some knowledge of what to look for and how to handle the situation with care.
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