If you live in a home or a converted industrial building that was built prior to 1980, there’s a good chance you are residing in a space that was constructed or insulated with asbestos related materials. Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that was widely used in a variety of products for its heat-resistant and fire-proof properties, particularly between the 1930’s and 1950’s.
The danger associated with asbestos contact can be relatively low, specifically when asbestos containing materials are in good condition and not manipulated or handled, but frequent or prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to malignant mesothelioma and other serious respiratory health complications. Fortunately, the best way to avoid your exposure to asbestos is knowing whether or not asbestos is in your home and how to live safely among the potentially hazardous material.
Is There Asbestos in Your Home?
Asbestos exposure can be dangerous to your health if you inhale or swallow the fibers, but asbestos fibers are microscopic and can’t be seen easily. The best way to find out if there are asbestos containing materials in your home is by learning as much as you can about the history of your home, such as when it was built and when or if any remodeling work had been done prior to your ownership. For instance, if your home was built in the early 1930’s and most of the interior is “original”, it’s likely there is some asbestos in your home.
If you suspect that asbestos is in your home, look for signs of damage, but don’t touch anything. A simple poke at damaged material can release dangerous fibers in the air. If you’re unsure what to look for, contact a professional asbestos inspector who can accurately assess the presence and condition of asbestos containing materials in your home.
Common Places Asbestos May Be Located in the Home
Materials containing asbestos can be on the outside of your home and be on every level on the inside from the attic to the basement. The following spaces may contain asbestos, but if you’re unsure, always ask for a professional opinion and never attempt to remove or remodel:
• Attic: An attic can be a great space for storage, but if you notice your attic is insulated with vermiculite, shiny coarse flakes in a variety of sizes, it’s likely that it contains asbestos. If you suspect asbestos, don’t store anything in your attic and limit your exposure.
• Outside: Even asbestos containing materials that are located outside of the home can pose a health risk, particularly if it becomes damaged. Tar paper, exterior window panels, deck undersheeting, gutters, window putty, and even siding or shingles may contain asbestos, depending on when they were manufactured.
• Throughout the House: When examining the interior of your home, look for cracks, water damage, or missing pieces. Remember, just look, don’t touch. The following materials may contain asbestos: vinyl floor tiles, acoustical ceiling tiles, heat source coverings, textured paint, and artificial ashes/ embers in gas fireplaces.
Although asbestos exposure can be life changing, you shouldn’t panic if you suspect asbestos in your home. It’s wise to be aware of any hidden dangers, limit your exposure, and leave removal and assessment to certified professionals.