Depending on the materials used to build your home or office building, and whether or not you have any renovation planned, asbestos could be a hidden threat to the health of your family or co-workers.
Asbestos refers to a silicate mineral found naturally (and therefore mined) around the globe. The sharp microscopic fibers that comprise asbestos produce a mineral of extraordinary strength. It is nonflammable and noncombustible, with a melting point of 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. As a consequence, asbestos was, and still is, used in various building materials. The danger to human health occurs when the tiny fibers become airborne. (Learn more about why asbestos is still a problem in the U.S. and what the EPA is doing about imported asbestos)
Building owners can protect family and/or co-workers by knowing where ACM (asbestos containing materials) may be located in your home and what to do about it.
Where Is Asbestos In My Home? Here is a list of some common ACM found in older homes:
- Appliance parts
- Ceiling products (popcorn texture, tiles, tile mastic)
- Cement asbestos (Transite) products (flue lining, ducts, pipes, shingles, etc.)
- Electrical products (cloth wire insulation, electrical panels)
- Flooring products (asphalt floor tile, mastic, vinyl tiles and sheet flooring)
- HVAC products (boiler insulation, gaskets, heat shields, pipe and tank insulation)
- Paints and coatings
- Roofing products (base flashing, felt, shingles, tar)
- Vermiculite (attic and wall insulation, fireplace decoration, gardening products)
- Vinyl wall coverings
- Wall applications (caulking and putties, spackling compounds)
- Wallboard or sheetrock
- Wallboard joint compound
- Window glazing
In homes built prior to the 1980s, it’s wise to assume that the material in question contains asbestos. To be certain, however, hire a trained and certified professional to inspect the material and perform testing.
Exposure occurs when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed. Damage may occur simply due to deterioration over time, and renovation projects can disturb asbestos-containing materials that might otherwise remain non-threatening. In either case, the tiny, light fibers are released into the air where they can be inhaled and/or ingested by humans.
According to the CDC, inhalation is the most common route leading to illness. The fibers become trapped in the lungs and over time irreversible tissue damage can lead to grave illness. Less common, ingestion occurs when the fibers are swallowed and enter the digestive system. This may happen when swallowing material removed from the lungs or consuming something contaminated (such as drinking water).
If You Discover Asbestos In Your Home Or Office. If left alone, asbestos will not do damage to your health. If, however, asbestos is damaged or deteriorating, you should contact an experienced asbestos professional. After careful evaluation, they will recommend one of two options:
- Repair – ACM may be encapsulated using a sealant material that surrounds or embeds the fibers in an adhesive to prevent release of fibers. A bridging encapsulant creates a membrane over the surface, while a penetrating encapsulant penetrates the material and binds its components together.
- Removal – an asbestos professional can remove damaged materials using specialized techniques. Your home environment will be carefully monitored throughout the process to ensure the safety of you and your family. Removal is the best option if the ACM is damaged or if you are planning on renovating your home.
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure for any asbestos fibers. If you have any concerns about the presence of asbestos in your home or workplace, contact a trained and certified asbestos professional. You can have peace of mind knowing that your concerns are addressed thoroughly, professionally, and in full compliance with governmental agencies.