Asbestos, a group of naturally occurring minerals, has been extensively used in numerous industries until the 1980s, when the hazardous heath effects of prolonged exposure were finally confirmed by several government agencies. Nowadays, asbestos is deemed carcinogenic and its correlation with terminal conditions such as lung cancer and mesothelioma is undeniable.
Mesothelioma: Treatment Options
Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk
Asbestosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
How to Protect Yourself from Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma
Health Issues Caused by Asbestos
Testing common products in your house for asbestos, especially if the building was erected before the 1980s, is crucial. If the carcinogen is indeed present in your home, abatement is subsequently required to completely remove asbestos from the building and ensure your family’s well being.
Attic insulation was one of the most common asbestos-containing products before the 1980s. Because it is friable, asbestos fibers can be released into the air with the slightest disturbance, including by wind or ventilation. This type of insulation is extremely dangerous, as it contains high concentrations of asbestos, and should only be removed by a certified abatement company. The risk of exposure is tremendous and it is highly recommended to use a dust mask if you are going to spend any time in the attic.
Both ceiling tiles and spray-on popcorn ceiling treatments may contain asbestos. Due to its remarkable fire resistance, low cost and accessibility, asbestos was a very convenient building material which has been added in thousands of products during the last century. If ceiling tiles and popcorn ceiling treatments are not disturbed by remodeling operations, the risk of exposure is minimal. However, if these products are damaged, fibers will be released in the air where they can easily be inhaled. If you plan to renovate your house, it is strongly advised to have ceiling products removed by a professional company beforehand. Wetting down the surface will also reduce the amount of released asbestos fibers.
If you live in a house built before the 1980s, there is a good chance your walls contain asbestos. Because fibers are highly processed prior to being added to building materials, you cannot tell whether a product contains asbestos just by looking at it. Only a certified testing company will be able to identify it by conducting a thorough analysis. Nevertheless, it is better to be cautious and avoid unnecessarily disturbing walls which may contain asbestos. Remodeling operations should not be performed until all asbestos-containing products are properly disposed of by a professional abatement company.
Asbestos can also be found in old window putty. It was incorporated in this product to increase its strength and heat resistance. While window putty is a bonded material, it will become friable over time due to aging and weathering, thus entailing a higher risk of exposure. If you would like to replace your windows, we advise you to hire a team of professionals who will safely dispose of the asbestos-containing product. In the meantime, you should avoid the following activities, as they involve an increased risk of exposure:
When it comes to wood burning stoves, asbestos can be found in the ducts, the insulation and the flue, as well as in various components of the stove itself such as door gaskets. As for gas fireplaces, these toxic minerals may also be present in artificial ashes and embers. The risk of exposure is quite serious, as asbestos-containing products in wood burning stoves and fireplaces will gradually be damaged by the heat, which will eventually make them friable. If you suspect your stove or fireplace has asbestos, we strongly encourage you to send us a sample for testing and subsequently have a team of professionals remove it, if necessary.
Garage roofs, walls and doors may contain asbestos as well. Similarly to other products, the mineral fibers would be added to these building components to ensure a greater durability and fire resistance. Aging results in asbestos-containing garage parts becoming friable and for this reason, you should avoid disturbing suspicious products to prevent exposure. While disposing of the walls and roof requires a competent asbestos abatement company, your old garage door can be replaced more easily. However, it is preferable to have a professional do it.
Cement siding manufactured before the 1980s may also contain asbestos. Fibers would be added to cement in order to prevent it from breaking or cracking, as well as to fireproof it. Stucco, a building material originally made with sand, water and lime, has started to contain asbestos in the 1920s. Similarly, it would be used to increase the product’s strength. Undisturbed materials do not pose a serious threat. Nevertheless, old products will gradually become friable and professional removal is necessary to safely dispose of them.
Asbestos was incorporated in the manufacturing of drywall to enhance the product’s resistance and to make it more sound absorbent. Drywall entails a particularly increased risk of exposure if remodeling operations are performed, as even sanding could lead to a high amount of particles being released into the air. Therefore, we strongly advise you to not disturb asbestos-containing drywall in any way and to have it replaced with a safer alternative, if possible.
There are multiple floor components which may contain asbestos, including vinyl floor tiles, sheet flooring and asphalt floor tiles. Vinyl flooring products have been manufactured with asbestos since the 1950s and soon became a very convenient choice for numerous home owners, as they were inexpensive and easy to install. The risk of exposure is relatively low as long as you do not disturb the products. You should not cut, sand or remove asbestos floor tiles.
Due to the fireproofing properties of asbestos, toxic insulation was widely used before the 1980s to line the inner and outer walls of heating ducts. Additionally, a cloth made with asbestos would cover air handler vibration dampers and transite cement, a type of asbestos-containing cement, would also be employed around heating ducts. While the risk of exposure associated with these products is generally low, you should avoid disturbing them in any way. If you need to clean the heating ducts, wearing a dust mask and coveralls is mandatory to prevent exposure. However, it is preferable to hire a professional for this job as well.
Asbestos may be present in the tank jacket placed around water heaters. The purpose of this type of insulation is to maintain a high water temperature for a longer period of time and thereby to save more energy. In the U.S., tank jackets were usually lined with white asbestos from Libby, Montana. Although the chances of being exposed to asbestos from tank jackets are generally reduced, old insulation is friable and should only be handled by professionals. We recommend you to not disturb asbestos-containing tank jackets in any way so as to prevent the release of fibers.
Insulation materials manufactured between the 1860s and the 1980s contained asbestos in nearly all cases. Piping systems require great amounts of insulation, as they are constantly exposed to extreme temperatures, and asbestos lining would provide the necessary protection. If you live in a house built within the above mentioned timeframe, it is very likely that your piping system is insulated with asbestos. As long as you do not disturb it, the risk of exposure is minimal. Nevertheless, because old insulation is usually brittle and toxic particles can easily become airborne, we highly advise you to wear a dust mask if you need to be in the proximity of asbestos-lined pipes.
Similarly to water heaters, asbestos insulation has been widely used for all types of boilers throughout the past century. Boiler pipes were protected with a layer of asbestos to prevent fire and lower energy costs. You should never attempt to remove insulation by yourself, as the risk of contamination is very high. If you suspect your boiler insulation contains asbestos, we highly encourage you to send us a sample for analysis. Information about the sample collecting process can be found in our free guide.
Transite is a composite fiber cement material which was first manufactured in 1929. It could contain up to 50% asbestos. Transite was mostly used for roof shingles, plumbing, chimneys, HVAC systems and siding. Nowadays, there are numerous houses in which this building material is still present and while it is generally deemed safer than other products, you should avoid unnecessarily disturbing it by drilling or sawing.
Textured paint and coating products had been manufactured with asbestos in the U.S. until 1985. Asbestos was a surprisingly common ingredient due to its fireproofing properties. Fibers would also increase the products’ resistance, preventing paint from cracking and flaking off. In most cases, asbestos-containing textured paint and coating products do not entail a serious health hazard. However, when damaged, the risk of fibers becoming airborne is considerable. To prevent exposure, you can either seal it up with a special resin polymer while wearing a dust mask or have the material professionally removed.
Asbestos may also be found in faux brick wall cladding, which is often used to conceal a building’s exterior damages and signs of aging. Even though new products rarely contain asbestos, old faux brick wall cladding are very likely to have been manufactured with it to enhance the material’s strength and to fireproof it. Similarly to most asbestos-containing products, you cannot detect toxic fibers with the naked eye. Therefore, if you believe the faux brick wall cladding covering the outside of your house has asbestos, we advise you to send us a sample for a free analysis.
Roofing products were some of the most popular building materials produced with asbestos during the last century. Because they have a great life expectancy of 30 to 50 years, asbestos-containing roofing products can still be found in a large number of buildings erected before the 1980s. Shingles, patching compounds, flatsheet, asphalt impregnated felt and corrugated sheets are only a few of the roofing products manufactured with asbestos. Provided roofing products are not disturbed, the risk of exposure is relatively low. If you plan to remove any of the materials mentioned above, it is always recommended to opt for the services of a certified company, as fibers will certainly become airborne during the procedure.
Asbestos could be present in adhesives and mastics, too. Fibers were added to increase the products’ strength and ability to bind building materials such as floor or ceiling tiles to various surfaces, as well as to ensure their resistance to extreme temperatures. Even though asbestos-containing adhesives do not usually represent a serious health threat, particles may be released into the air if the building materials bound with these products are disturbed. It is recommended to wear a dust mask during remodeling operations if your house was constructed before the mid 1980s.
Vinyl wallpapers manufactured prior to the 1980s are very likely to contain asbestos fibers. Asbestos has been used in this product ever since the 1920s and can still be found in numerous homes. While the health dangers are not as high as the risk entailed by other products, you should avoid disturbing or removing wallpaper which might contain asbestos. If you plan to dispose of it, you should hire a team of professionals in order to prevent further contamination.
You can find information about the most common household asbestos-containing products and learn how to properly collect samples.PDF Download
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