Asbestos In The Home – Homedit

Almost every house built before 1980 contains asbestos. It was one of the most popular products in the construction industry–because of its insulation and fire retardant properties. Not only was it used in insulation, but in over 3000 other products.

Where to Look For Asbestos in Homes

Asbestos toxicity in humans became well-known in the 1970s. Since then over 60 countries have banned the use of asbestos except for a very few specific products. Some other countries have restricted asbestos use–especially in insulation products and for construction uses. In April 2019, the EPA published its list of prohibited products. Multiple construction products–including various insulations–are on the list.

Where to Look For Asbestos in Homes

Almost every older house and commercial building contains some asbestos-based materials. Knowing what to look for and where to look will help decide what type of remediation to undertake.

Where Asbestos is Found

Asbestos is–and has been–used in house construction for decades. Some of these uses include:

  • Asbestos Siding.
  • Cement and Plaster.
  • Floor and Ceiling Tiles.
  • Roofing Products. Including tar paper, felt, and shingles.
  • Surface Treatments. Including drywall, drywall compound, putty, paint, caulking, sealants, spackling, and popcorn-type ceiling textures.
  • Furnaces and Heating Systems. Including insulation wrap and white joint tape used on ducts.
  • Insulation. All types of building envelope insulation including wall and floor batts, attic batts, and loose fill blown-in. Also hot water tanks and pipes.

Make Sure That it is Asbestos

If you suspect asbestos somewhere in the house, have a professional asbestos removal company or inspector check out the house. Peace of mind is worth the cost. Blown-in cellulose attic insulation can look a lot like asbestos blown-in attic insulation.

Another option is to buy an asbestos testing kit. Or more than one if you need to test multiple products. Most of these work the same way. Collect a sample and mail it to a laboratory for analysis. The price of most kits includes the lab test cost.

Order the correct kit. Some of them contain gloves and PPE for the safe collection of samples. Some contain no PPE and are used to send samples that do not require collection.

The kits are a quick and inexpensive way to check out your home insulation. Once you know the problems you are dealing with, it is easier to remediate them.

How to Remove Asbestos Insulation

Finding asbestos in a building partway through the renovation process can shut down projects for days, weeks, or even months while the remediation goes on. There are no federal laws regulating the removal of asbestos, but many local jurisdictions have regulations that must be adhered to for the removal and disposal of asbestos.

The absolute best, safest, easiest, and most environmentally sound way to remove asbestos of any kind is to hire a professional removal company. They have experience, knowledge, equipment, and connections. Even without federal regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends hiring professionals to remove asbestos.

All US asbestos removal companies are licensed by the EPA. The companies have to meet strict guidelines to comply with their licensing agreement. Each project requires a test consultant to certify that all asbestos has been completely removed from the building.

If you find an asbestos problem during a renovation, make sure you check out the regulations. Some local governments do not allow DIY asbestos removal. Almost all local jurisdictions require a removal permit. The tough part may be disposing of the contaminated material. In many places, any amount of asbestos-contaminated material over one percent must be taken to an approved site.

Once you have the permits and a disposal site, move your family out of the house to keep them safe. Wear a hazmat-type suit c/w boot covers and a hood. Goggles, gloves, and a respirator with minimum P100 filters complete the PPE.

When the material is out of the house and ready for disposal (in sealed bags), bag everything you were wearing including the respirator, and throw it out too.

Should Asbestos be Removed?

Asbestos insulation can cause lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma, and ovarian cancer, among other diseases. Inhaling the small asbestos fibers causes all of the disease. The fibers are released into the air when asbestos is disturbed.

Asbestos is very friable–meaning it crumbles easily or pieces come off especially when rubbed. Asbestos building materials release fibers and dust into the air during renovation and demolition activities including:

  • Drilling.
  • Sawing.
  • Sanding.
  • Removal.
  • Disturbing in any way.
  • Breaking Apart.

Asbestos fibers can also be breathed in when working on automobile brakes and clutches.

There are no significant health risks from the fibers if asbestos is:

  • Left undisturbed.
  • Isolated. In non-living areas such as the attic.
  • Sealed. Behind walls or floors. Unless the drywall and/or taping compound contain asbestos.
  • Tightly bound. Inside products that are in good condition.

Asbestos fibers are very small and light. Just opening the attic hatch and going up to look at something is enough to get them moving into the air.

Does Asbestos Get a Bad Rap?

Asbestos is definitely dangerous. It has been classified as a known human carcinogen. These are the groups of people who contract asbestosis, mesothelioma, and asbestos-induced lung cancer. Not homeowners.

  • Asbestos miners. Also asbestos mill workers and asbestos transportation workers.
  • People constantly working with asbestos products. Such as construction workers, shipbuilders, and pipefitters.
  • Families of anyone working with asbestos. (The fibers are carried home on clothing and hair.)
  • People living near asbestos mines or mills.

Even with prolonged high exposure to asbestos, it usually takes 10 to 40 years for symptoms of these diseases to appear. The NIH National Cancer Institute probably provides the best “Don’t panic” information.

“Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time during their life. Low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil. However, most people do not become ill from their exposure. People who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact.”

Sixty-six countries have now banned the importation and use of asbestos. Almost all of them allow a few exceptions for products like brake pads, and clutch pads. Russia, China, India, and the United States are among those countries that have not joined the ban. Russia is the biggest asbestos miner. China and India are the biggest users.

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Written by Murat

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