Many homes built before 1980 may contain asbestos, this dangerous and naturally occurring mineral can be found in ceiling tiles, insulation, old pipe cement and even tile flooring. At the time, asbestos was a highly effective and inexpensive fire-retardant material. With little research behind the potential dangers, it was steadily used in building construction from 1940 to the late 1970’s. Some newer homes may also contain Asbestos based on the materials used, or re-used when remodeling a home.
When undisturbed, asbestos is technically non-hazardous, but when the tiny abrasive asbestos fibers are disturbed and become airborne, they can easily be inhaled. Inhaling asbestos can damage lung tissue and has been known to cause cancer. The danger comes from asbestos material that has been damaged over time. Asbestos that crumbles easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder is likely to release asbestos fibers which create a health hazard.
A visual inspection of your home is usually not sufficient to determine if it contains Asbestos. The build date of your home is a good indication, but the only way to truly know is to send a sample of the suspected fibers or material to a certified laboratory for analysis. This test should always be done by a professional environmental service to prevent disturbing the asbestos. If you suspect a part of your home may contain asbestos due to the age or materials used in construction, check periodically for tears, abrasions or water damage. If you discover damaged material, limit access to the area and do not touch or disturb it. If you are going to make changes to your home that might disturb or kick up dust, a professional repair or removal service is needed.
If handled properly, asbestos can be prevented from ever causing a problem in your home. Whether you are planning a remodel or repair of your home, it’s important to find a licensed professional who is certified in asbestos abatement and who knows what to look for. Many general contractors don’t have this special certification due to the extensive licensing, and federal or state laws governing this type of service.
Professional Asbestos removal is the only permanent solution to the problem. If not removed properly, you may be at high risk of exposure. Special equipment such as approved respirators, HEPA vacuums, protective TYVEK suits, gloves, and disposable clothing may be used during the removal process. Air samples are also taken after the work is completed to ensure complete removal of the hazardous material.