Winter Storms Could Lead to Asbestos Exposure

By Stan G. in Health

Winter is just around the corner and while you may be trying to stay warm, you should be worried about another problem: extreme winter weather can cause damage to asbestos-containing building materials, which may release toxic asbestos fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested.

Damage and deterioration will increase the friability of asbestos-based materials. Once asbestos has been damaged, it will travel throughout your home exposing you and your entire family.

Friable asbestos products can be crumbled into fine dust with very light pressure. If disturbed, these materials are more likely to release measurable levels of asbestos into the environment, and generally, pose a greater risk to health. Any asbestos-containing material can become friable. Once airborne, small particles of asbestos remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and can be inhaled by homeowners, and people living in the vicinity.

The only way to know if your home contains asbestos is through asbestos testing. These tests are completed by licensed professionals. They will be able to check your home and if you do have this hazardous mineral, they will be able to remove it safely.

How Winter Damages Could Lead to Asbestos Exposure

Destructive ice storms affecting most of the U.S. bring more risks than just freezing temperatures and dangerous driving conditions. Snow, freezing rain, sleet, and strong winds can also affect building materials containing asbestos.

We first need to look at where asbestos-containing materials could be found. Below we will discuss the main areas that could bear the impact of storms and how that links to exposure to this hazardous mineral:

  • Roofing is known to commonly contain dangerous asbestos fibers. Roofing damage resulting from the massive amount of weight added by ice, sleet, and snow, is common during the winter months. If your roofing becomes damaged, it is very possible for the asbestos fibers to enter your home;
  • Extreme changes in the temperature can cause water leaks into your home from ice dams or frozen pipes. This will increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials, making fibers release more likely. Insulation and adhesives are known to contain asbestos. Leaking roof from melting snow is also a common problem. Although dripping water and wet floors cause their own problems, the concern is that the leaks can also contaminate the rooms and halls with asbestos fibers;
  • An older home likely contains asbestos, and if areas of the basement or attic are damaged, you are at the threat of asbestos exposure. Attics and basements need to be checked on a regular basis. If you have basement or attic damages from a winter storm, you will need the help of a certified asbestos abatement contractor.

If You Have Winter Storm Damages Don't Wait

Many homeowners are completely unaware that there is a good chance that if their home was constructed prior to the 1980s, it probably contains asbestos in old vinyl floor tiles, roof shingles, siding, insulation, internal wall sheeting, popcorn ceilings, flooring adhesives, room soundproofing, acoustical tiles, artificial coals and embers in gas fireplaces, window putty and joint compound used on seams between pieces of sheetrock.

The first thing homeowners should do if they have winter storm damages is to relocate their families while repairs and decontamination take place. Secondly, they should appropriately focus on fixing the structural damage that the season's cold snaps have brought. They should start hauling away damaged flooring, ceiling tiles, and walls. Taking proper safety precautions could save your life.

Tips to minimize asbestos exposure:

  • Wet down any debris that may contain asbestos until it can't become airborne in case that it's moved quickly or if there is ventilation. This is a basic abatement procedure that reduces fiber release.
  • All asbestos waste should be double-bagged and sealed in leak-tight containers while still wet, then labeled clearly and taken to qualified landfills that have specific requirements for securing the waste and preventing fibers from escaping into the air
  • Wear a particulate air-filter respirator with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter
  • Wear a disposable coverall, disposable rubber gloves, rubber boots, and protective eye goggles the entire time that you are in the contamination area.

Considering the toxicity of asbestos, you should always be cautious in this respect - the safest approach would be to leave the local or state environmental officials to determine the best removal and disposal practices.

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.