Exposure to asbestos fibers can be extremely harmful.  Some of the long term effects include mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer.  You can’t see or smell asbestos, so unfortunately it is not always detected until it is too late.  Learning a little bit about what asbestos is and where you might find it in your home will give you some of the tools you need to keep you and your family safe.

What is Asbestos?

  • Asbestos is a natural mineral found in rock and soil that is made up of tiny fibers. These tiny fibers are extremely durable and resistant to heat and other chemicals.
  • You cannot see, smell, or taste it. The fibers are too small to identify without the use of a microscope and thus require testing in a lab to determine exposure.
  • It has been used in products for over 100 years due to its durability and heat resistance. 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.

Where is asbestos most commonly found?

  • 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:
    • Plaster
    • vinyl floor tiles
    • caulking
    • roof and siding shingles
    • attic and wall insulation
    • ceiling tiles
    • broilers and pipes
    • HVAC duct insulation
    • oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
    • plaster

What signs of asbestos should I look for in my home?

  • 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.
  • If you suspect your home may have asbestos, it is highly recommended that you have your home evaluated by a professional, especially before starting any home projects. Asbestos can be difficult to detect so an outside lab test will be the best way to determine if there is a problem.
  • There are potential signs you can look for immediately in older homes. These include pipes that are uninsulated with white or gray insulation remnants along the fittings, popcorn ceilings, square tiles measuring nine-inch, attic insulation, and floor mastic.  These are just a few of the signs of asbestos and these indicators will not be conclusive without an evaluation and testing from a professional.
  • 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.

You want to be in a home where you feel safe and secure.  Being aware of asbestos risk and taking proper precautions will be the best way to prevent exposure.


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