Asbestos Exposure at Home
At the moment, mesothelioma is only known to be caused by asbestos exposure. Inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers can lead to affections of the lungs and abdominal cavity, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma or pleural diseases. As reported by the EPA, no level of asbestos exposure can be considered safe.
One way of coming in contact with asbestos is within our home. This source of exposure to asbestos is usually omitted but it is essential to know that for houses built before 1980 asbestos-containing materials might have been used. Currently, asbestos is still present in approximately 80% of the houses built prior to the 1980s. Therefore, it is very important to know and understand how homeowners can be exposed to asbestos and also how to avoid this.
Common Asbestos Locations in the Household
Asbestos use has been regulated since 1970 but before that, it was extensively used in construction materials. Therefore, it can be found in various places within your home:
- Roofing tiles
- Insulation (most often)
- Water heaters
- Decorative textures
- Floor and ceiling tiles
Exposure Through Home Renovation
A person can be exposed to asbestos in several ways when renovating a house:
- Scraping ceiling/floor tiles
- Disturbing insulation
- Sanding coatings or plasters
- Removing roof shingles
It is of high importance to know that the presence of asbestos in construction materials is only dangerous if the material is damaged. When the material is deteriorated, it dries and turns into a powder, leading this way to the possibility of asbestos fibers being released into the air. These fibers can be inhaled and cause major health problems. Therefore, homeowners should request professional testing in order to find out if the materials in their houses contain asbestos or not. Moreover, they should avoid engaging in renovation projects on their own as it can put them at risk of developing asbestos-related affections like mesothelioma.
How to Deal with Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos-containing products are dangerous only when they are damaged, so any crushed or broken asbestos material might be toxic for the inhabitants. Materials that are undisturbed are most probably safe.
In order to avoid coming into contact with asbestos, you can take into account the following pieces of advice:
- Do not try to remove asbestos-containing materials by yourself. If you know that certain products or materials in your house contain asbestos, leave them alone. Accidentally damaging them can be harmful to you.
- Test the products and materials. You should contact a qualified person to inspect and determine whether the tested material contains asbestos or not. This way, you can know for sure if you are at risk of asbestos exposure.
- Have the asbestos-containing materials removed. If you find out that a certain material contains asbestos, contact a certified asbestos abatement contractor in order to remove it safely. Working with someone who knows how to deal with asbestos in homes is of high importance.
Deteriorated house insulation and water damage are often discovered in storage places like the attic or the basement, which are considered the main places of a house where materials that contain asbestos were used. Deterioration of these materials and water damage can lead to asbestos fibers release, putting the people moving items in the mentioned areas of the house at risk of inhaling the fibers. Therefore, unless you are sure that the construction materials used in your home are asbestos free, you should avoid disturbing these materials.
In order to prevent asbestos exposure, the US Environmental Protection Agency suggests people to:
- Keep children away from these areas of the house
- Clean the places only with wet cloths
- Go in and out of the area as rarely as possible
- Place the items on a wet towel
Asbestos and Garage Work
Clutches, breaks and other parts of the car used to be built with materials that contain asbestos, endangering people who work on vehicles in their own garage. Although it is impossible to decide if car components contain asbestos just by looking at them, some parts might be provided with labels which indicate whether these components contain asbestos or not.
There can be specific regulations regarding asbestos exposure, depending on the area you live in. For instance, some counties have supplementary rules that people have to follow when renovating a house or any other building. However, if you are not sure about the asbestos regulations in your area, you can contact your local code enforcement officer.