A home built before the late 1980’s will likely have asbestos. With all the information we now have about the dangers of exposure, that may seem a little bit frightening. It’s important to understand what risks are associated with asbestos and where you are most likely to come in contact with it.
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.
- Asbestos is now categorized as a carcinogen. It has been removed from most construction materials and household products. If there are trace amounts in a product, it must be labeled.
- Most asbestos exposure comes after asbestos-containing material is damaged or moved. This occurs most often with projects involving demolition, remodeling, repair, and maintenance.
Where is Asbestos 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:
- 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
How Do I Know if My Home has Asbestos?
- 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 that have 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 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.
Asbestos in your home does not necessarily mean exposure. Asbestos does not become a problem until it is damaged or disturbed, sending particles into the air. If you have concerns about your home, you must get testing for confirmation. Asbestos left undisturbed will not harm you, but you can choose to have asbestos removed. Removal is best taken care of through a professional that will have the training and knowledge to safely take care of the problem.
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