Home Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure refers to the inhalation or ingestion of airborne asbestos fibers. There are multiple activities which can release asbestos fibers in the air and thereby, exposure can happen in numerous settings – including at home. As fibers are microscopic, people may be unaware that they were exposed to asbestos in certain cases, especially since this mineral occurs naturally in plenty of geographic regions across the world. However, asbestos is a known human carcinogen. While exposure does not result in immediate symptoms, it can lead to the development of serious diseases over the years.

Our bodies are not designed to eliminate asbestos. Thus, after you breathe in or swallow toxic fibers, they will lodge in your lung tissue or inside your digestive system forever. The rough texture of asbestos fibers, as well as their needle-like shape, makes their natural elimination impossible, although some may be coughed up occasionally. Moreover, fibers can also travel through the body, which – depending on the organ they migrate to – may result in kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer or bladder cancer. These asbestos fibers can gradually produce severe inflammation and tissue scarring, which might subsequently give way to a disease. However, due to their long latency period, asbestos-related diseases only occur after 15 to 50 years of first exposure.

The following asbestos-containing products can be found in dwellings built before 1980:

  • pipe insulation
  • boiler insulation
  • furnace insulation
  • insulation around electrical boxes
  • attic insulation (vermiculite)
  • duct insulation
  • spray-on insulation (popcorn ceiling)
  • batt insulation
  • loose-fill insulation
  • block insulation
  • corrugated air-cell insulation
  • breaching insulation
  • HVAC insulation
  • blown-in insulation
  • electrical wiring insulation
  • ceiling tiles
  • acoustical plaster
  • decorative plaster
    • vinyl floor tiles
    • vinyl sheet flooring
    • flooring backing
    • asphalt floor tiles
    • shingles
    • flatsheet
    • corrugated asphalt sheet
    • roofing felt
    • patching compounds
    • interior walls
    • wallboard
    • sheetrock
    • drywall
    • vinyl wall coverings
    • faux brick wall cladding
    • Tilux marble finish wall panel
    • textures paints and coatings
    • siding
    • plasterboard
    • gypsum board
    • stucco
    • vinyl wallpapers
    • fibrous cement sheet
    • cement wall cladding
    • cement flues in boilers, air conditioning, and ventilation systems
    • cement water pipes
    • cement sewage pipes
    • cement downpipes
    • cement gutters
    • molded fittings
    • pressure pipes
    • sills
    • infill panels
    • soffits and undercloak
    • joint compounds
    • caulking
    • adhesives
    • tapes
    • putty
    • thermal taping compounds
    • gloves
    • threads
    • rope
    • yarn
    • fire blankets
    • oven mitts
    • pot holders
    • ironing board covers
    • electrical cloth
    • coffee pots
    • hairdryers
    • irons
    • toasters
    • popcorn poppers
    • wood-burning stoves
    • portable heaters
    • crock pots
    • portable dishwashers

    This list is by no means exhaustive, as asbestos would lurk in over 5,000 consumer products during the last century. However, they are the most common. To find out more about household asbestos exposure, how to identify potentially dangerous products, as well as how you can avoid toxic exposure, please read our free, downloadable guide. It also includes a list of certified asbestos testing companies for each U.S. state, which will come in handy in the event you need to have hazardous materials removed from your home.

    Types of Asbestos Exposure

    As previously noted, asbestos exposure can occur under multiple circumstances. Depending on the setting in which it takes place, asbestos exposure is of four types:

    Occupational exposure is accountable for the vast majority of asbestos-related conditions. Approximately 20% of the individuals with a history of workplace asbestos exposure will develop a disease. In nearly half of the cases, this disease is going to be mesothelioma, the most aggressive form of cancer asbestos can cause. People who were in contact with asbestos on the job are most likely to become ill because the concentration of toxic fibers in the air they would regularly breathe was extremely high, as well as because their exposure would generally extend over several years.

    More about Occupational Asbestos Exposure

    Deposits of asbestos can be found worldwide, some of the largest in the U.S. occurring in the following states:

    • California
    • Pennsylvania
    • Vermont
    • Connecticut
    • Maryland
    • New Jersey
    • Virginia

    It is not uncommon for people to come in contact with asbestos by accidentally disturbing mineral deposits.

    More about Environmental Asbestos Exposure

    Surprisingly, asbestos exposure can also happen at home. As building materials were commonly manufactured with asbestos, construction companies would accordingly employ asbestos-containing products for their projects. Nowadays, millions of old buildings across the U.S. have asbestos-containing materials in their structure, which may pose a considerable threat to the health of inhabitants over time.

    More about Domestic Asbestos Exposure

    Secondary asbestos exposure takes place when one inhales or ingests toxic fibers without being in direct contact with the source of exposure. As the harmful effects of exposure were not officially recognized until 1973, people who handled asbestos-containing products on the job were not required by employers to wear protective equipment or to change their clothes at the end of their shift. Consequently, not only would they inhale astounding amounts of carcinogenic fibers, but they would also carry asbestos dust home, involuntarily putting their family members’ health at risk.

    More about Secondary Asbestos Exposure

    Is Asbestos Exposure Always Dangerous?

    The consensus, as expressed by multiple U.S. federal agencies and worldwide health organizations, is that there is no safe asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral which can cause terrible diseases, regardless of the source of exposure. However, there are several factors which may increase the risk of developing a disease, as follows:

    • the duration of exposure – studies suggest that the longer one was in contact with asbestos, the more likely they are to be diagnosed with a related illness
    • the amount of asbestos fibers in the body – it is also believed that if a person is exposed to a high concentration of airborne asbestos, their risk of developing a disease increases, as they will inhale a larger amount of toxic fibers
    • the type of asbestos – there are conflicting opinions in this respect, as while some believe chrysotile asbestos is the most dangerous, others argue that the minerals in the amphibole group are more hazardous due to their needle-like shape
    • smoking – smokers with a history of asbestos exposure are between 50 and 90 times more susceptible to developing lung cancer than non-smokers who were exposed to asbestos
    • preexistent pulmonary disease – asbestos-related diseases are more likely to occur in individuals who suffer from a pulmonary condition, since their lungs are already weakened
    • a germline mutation in BAP1 – it was found that this genetic mutation increases one’s chances of developing mesothelioma significantly, which partially explains why only a small portion of people exposed to asbestos are diagnosed with this form of cancer

    Considering the toxicity of asbestos, you should always be cautious in this respect – even if there is only a slight possibility of exposure. Although people with a history of heavy and prolonged exposure are at highest risk, there have been situations in which individuals who had been in contact with asbestos on only one occasion developed