Asbestos in the Air Conditioning System

By Stan G. in Health

In the first half of the 20th century, asbestos was a material of many uses in the United States. The mineral was easy to find, as it was mined across the entire country, which made it affordable to purchase. Asbestos was non-corrosive, flexible and it was also resistant to fire, which prompted manufacturers to incorporate it into mixtures used for insulating purposes.

The property of acting as a fire retardant was one of the primary reasons for the mineral being used in the production of air conditioning units that would end up in hundreds of thousands of American homes. Even though asbestos usage was regulated beginning with the 1980s, the danger remains in the homes that were built prior to the banning of the mineral from most of its uses.

Thermal Properties of Asbestos and Air Conditioning

The air conditioning system inside your building can contain asbestos and it would not be an obvious thing for you to notice, which means that exposure could occur without you even being aware that it is happening. Toxic fibers might have been released into the air if the unit is damaged in some way that would produce dust.

Over time, a few decades usually, the asbestos particle can go from irritating and scarring the internal organs they had attached themselves to when the exposure first happened to developing into life-threatening diseases. For instance, recent medical research in the matter identifies the mineral as the main cause of mesothelioma, a very rare and malignant type of cancer, while also being responsible for the development of asbestosis and lung cancer, the most common and deadly of asbestos-related illnesses leading to over 100,000 deaths each year all over the world, according to the World Health Organization.

How to Know if There's Asbestos in Your Air Conditioning System?

If you happen to spot white dust coming out of your air conditioning unit, that might be a sign of asbestos that had crumbled and is spreading throughout your home. However, the toxic mineral is not generally that easy to notice, especially if it had not been disturbed.

In the cases of air conditioning units that contain asbestos, the material is mostly released in the home environment when the homeowner tries to clean it up by scraping or by rubbing the interior. With a system that is already dusty, it is likely that the vibration and the circulation of the air flow had damaged the metal foil that covers the interior of the ducts, causing asbestos to surface and become airborne.

An intact air conditioning system from an older building does not constitute a danger to the people living on the premises, in which case, it would be best for the homeowner to simply leave it alone and reduce the time spent engaging with it. However, if you find yourself faced with an air conditioning unit that is potentially contaminating your home with asbestos, you should take immediate action because unlike many other asbestos-containing products, air ducts can turn your living spaces into a hazardous environment very fast.

Since assessing the status of your air conditioning system might prove quite difficult with a not at all negligible risk, the smartest move would be to bring an asbestos professional on the site and let them put their training and equipment to good use while you and your loved ones are safe and away from the toxic fibers.

A thorough inspection would tell you for sure if you should even be concerned about asbestos. In the case in which the mineral is found on your property, you can also get a professional's view on the matter. Personal speculation and improvisation are not ways to get such a job done safely.

Also, if you believe that asbestos has already been released inside your home because of air conditioning before you begin your search for an asbestos contractor you should:

  • block access to that specific part of the house
  • seal off the air ducts and the vents
  • secure the bottoms of doors
  • shut the windows.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.