Asbestos in the Home: Know Your Options
Part 5 of 8 in the Old House Hazards Series
Asbestos can be a carcinogen and can be dangerous to your health. If your home was built between 1930 and 1950, it may have asbestos insulation. Before its nationwide ban in 1977, asbestos was also commonly used in patching materials and ceiling compounds. In older homes, asbestos was a popular choice for insulators around pipes, ducts, stoves, and furnaces. If you have a newer home, you probably won't find traces of asbestos around the house.
While home construction rules regarding the use of asbestos are not as stringent as those governing schools or other public buildings, most manufacturers have ceased using it altogether. That doesn't mean that some products--shingles, siding, roofing, insulating, or floor-backing materials--have discontinued using asbestos altogether.
Asbestos Repair or Removal
In most cases, asbestos is dangerous if the structure in which is has been used is damaged, releasing particles or fibers into the living environment. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Environmental Protection Agency both recommend leaving asbestos alone if the product remains in-tact in your home. If any of it is damaged, then it's a great time to get rid of it.
If you're concerned, it's best to have a professional asbestos inspection, repair, or removal company make the inspection and order laboratory testing. Depending on the damage or prevalence of asbestos, the company may recommend:
- Covering the asbestos in a secure container.
- Repairing the damaged product.
- Coating the asbestos in a product that binds the fibers together and seals them from the air.
Removing asbestos is a professional's job. Professionals are trained in handling dangerous materials and removing them safely from your home. Consultation with a professional should be considered when you're having renovations or additions done that may impact the integrity of the existing asbestos.
If you're doing any work around the home where you suspect there is asbestos, be sure not to drill or puncture the material. Do not sweep up parts of the material with a boom or vacuum. Instead, call in an expert and protect your family from exposure. And if you contact an expert, confirm that he or she has a successful track record in safely testing for--or removing--asbestos.
Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.