How to Safely Deal with Asbestos in Your Home

>> Aug 22, 2018


Last month, a steam pipe burst in New York City disrupted daily life, displacing residents and workers for multiple days. Though no one was seriously injured, residents and city officials were concerned when they learned that the steam line contained asbestos. Incidents like these often raise questions about the consequences of asbestos exposure and underscore the importance of knowing where asbestos may be in everyday life.

Asbestos was widely used throughout the U.S. during the 20th century in construction and manufacturing, and many homes built prior to the 1980s may contain asbestos. Because of this, it is important for homeowners to realize why and when asbestos can pose a threat to individual and family health. While the presence of asbestos in a home does not have to be an immediate concern, there can be a significant issue if it is disturbed during home improvement projects, renovations, or when a home is damaged.
 
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What is asbestos?

Asbestos is heat-resistant and durable, making it the seemingly perfect material for construction and manufacturing. Though asbestos has been linked to life-threatening health issues since the 1920s, the mineral was used widely throughout the U.S. between the 1930s and 1970s. At the height of its use, asbestos could be found in over 3,000 consumer products, such as crock pots, hairdryers, and stove mats.

There are six types of asbestos. While all are dangerous, research has revealed that some types are more dangerous than others. However, homeowners specifically should be aware of chrysotile asbestos. Chrysotile is the most common form of asbestos, accounting for 90 percent of asbestos use in the U.S., and was used in the construction of floors, walls, ceilings, and roofs.

Some common uses for asbestos in homes include insulation, roofing and siding shingles, textured paint, and some piping. While asbestos does not pose any immediate danger when undisturbed, home renovations can cause structures containing the mineral to break, which release tiny fibers into the air. When these fibers are inhaled, they can become embedded in a person’s lungs, heart, or abdomen. Over time, these fibers can irritate the lining of these organs, causing scarring and serious asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. For this reason, it is especially important to know if asbestos is present in your home before starting any renovations.

How to tell if asbestos is in your home and what to do about it

If you believe you may have found asbestos in your home, do not touch it. Often, it is difficult to tell whether or not asbestos is present by just looking at a structure, but you should approach it with caution until you know for certain that it is safe. To do this, you should hire a trained and accredited asbestos professional who can collect samples to test if asbestos is present, repair damaged asbestos, or remove the asbestos from your home.

There are a couple of options you have if tests do confirm there is asbestos in your home. First, if the asbestos has not been damaged, leave it alone. Asbestos does not pose a significant threat unless it is disturbed.

On the other hand, if an asbestos-containing structure has been broken, you can have a professional repair it. To do this, the professional will typically seal or cover the structure to make sure that asbestos fibers are not released into your home.

Finally, if you know that you will need to disturb the asbestos in order to complete a home renovation, you should have an asbestos contractor remove the asbestos from your home. Unfortunately, this is the most costly option, but it is the only way to ensure you and your family are not at risk of exposure and safe from mesothelioma.

Studies have shown that there is no “safe” amount of asbestos exposure. Though you might try to contain renovation debris or other potential health hazards during a renovation, it is unlikely that you will be able to contain an asbestos problem on your own. Asbestos microfibers can stick to clothes, carpets, and other surfaces in your home, which can expose your family to severe health consequences that might not manifest until decades later. To avoid these problems, check when your house was built, hire an accredited asbestos professional before you begin renovating, and decide if you will need to have asbestos removed from your home before work begins.
 

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