At one time, asbestos was common in a variety of different home improvement and construction materials as an insulator and for other building or protection purposes. Eventually, the truth about this fibrous material was discovered and people learned what a harmful mistake it was to use it in buildings and homes.
If your home is older, you may even have asbestos lurking in various areas of your home. You may wonder why it’s so dangerous and if you should remove it. For the health and wellbeing of your family and friends, it’s wise to consider the many reasons why eradicating asbestos from your home may be wise.
1. What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is actually a group of natural materials. Various names for asbestos materials include crocidolite, chrysotile, amosite and anthophyllite asbestos. Asbestos materials occur naturally in the soil and in rocks. The two main varieties of asbestos are serpentine fibers and amphibole fibers. Of these two fibers, amphiboles have the strongest link to cancer.
2. Safety/Health Issues
The danger from asbestos comes from inhaling the microfibers into the lungs. With inhalation into the lungs, asbestos creates a higher risk for cancer. The fine fibers adhere to mucous linings and may even penetrate more deeply into the lungs and chest cavity where they interfere with healthy cells, leading to cancer.
Asbestos inhalation could occur during the process of working with or manufacturing goods that contain asbestos. If an older home contains asbestos and the materials begin to break down and decompose, the fibers can become airborne. It’s also possible to accidentally disturb asbestos and release the fibers into the air.
Initially, there was no control over exposure to asbestos dust. Eventually, it became evident that asbestos fibers were detrimental to lung tissue, so factories attempted to control workers’ exposure with ventilation systems designed to exhaust the fibers out of the workplace.
Asbestos-related cancers became evident and for approximately the last 50 years, stringent controls of asbestos exposure have reduced the use and health issues from these fibers.
3. How Common Is It?
Because asbestos occurs naturally in the soil and in rocks, it’s possible to receive natural exposure to it just by coming into contact with it outdoors. If erosion occurs in areas where asbestos is present, water in the area may also contain asbestos.
People who work in industries such as insulation manufacturing and shipbuilding have traditionally received the highest exposure to asbestos. Even family members of these workers can receive dangerous exposure to asbestos due to the fibers that hang on work clothes.
In older buildings with decomposing and deteriorating areas, asbestos may become a danger because it becomes airborne. If the asbestos materials are not disturbed, no health risks should be present.
4. Where Is It Found In the Home?
Because of the strength, heat resistance and chemical resistance of asbestos, it was a popular and prevalent building material. In addition, asbestos does not conduct electricity. Asbestos was used as a material in weatherization and insulation. Asbestos was also used around pipes and around electrical wires. Some automobile parts contained asbestos, as well as roofing materials, and ceiling and flooring materials.
5. Testing for Asbestos
If you suspect that your home contains asbestos and you want to know for sure, you must hire an asbestos inspector to take a sample from your home. With the sample, the material will go to a laboratory where it will be analyzed for asbestos to determine whether it contains the dangerous fibers.
6. Asbestos Removal and Risks
If you find that your home does contain asbestos, the next step involves determining whether you should hire someone to remove it. As long as the materials are undisturbed and you have no plans for disturbing them with renovations or remodeling, it’s not necessary to remove it.
If the materials are releasing fibers into the air, you must proceed to asbestos abatement to remove it from your home. It’s imperative that you hire professionals to proceed with this work due to the extreme risks involved with disturbing the asbestos fibers during the removal process.
An asbestos removal contractor must have a special license to perform asbestos abatement. After assessing the project, the contractor will perform the work in a highly regulated manner that adheres to federal, state and local regulations.