According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, asbestos is the name that has been given to a group of minerals that occur in nature. These minerals were once heavily used in the manufacturing industries to help materials resist heat and corrosion. Due to health concerns, today the use of asbestos is heavily regulated.
The Danger of Asbestos
The fibers from asbestos can be inhaled into the lungs and present a serious health threat. Years of exposure can lead to loss of lung function, excess fluid in the lungs, and scar tissue. However, mesothelioma is the most serious health issue related to asbestos exposure.
According to the American Lung Association, mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in the lining of the lungs and certain abdominal organs. While it has other causes, asbestos is the major contributor. Roughly 70 to 80 percent of people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma get it as a result of being exposed to asbestos for extended periods (usually over many years). The disease has a long latency period, often not showing up until four or five decades after exposure. It is more common in men, in Caucasians, and in people who have either worked with asbestos or lived with those who have worked with the material.
Asbestos Before 1975
As reported by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, asbestos was commonly used in the construction of homes and buildings prior to 1975. It was used in attic insulation, fire protection, fuse box lining, patching and spackling compounds, pipe insulation, floor tiles, shingles, acoustical ceilings, and paints, among other things. It was also used in the manufacturing of everyday appliances such as toasters and hair dryers.
Asbestos in Your Home
Homes that were built before 1975 are much more likely to contain asbestos than those built more recently. But even those who live in old homes shouldn't panic: asbestos is only dangerous when it gets into the air (such as through demolition or remodeling).
Still, a home built before 1975 can benefit from an asbestos inspection. Per the Environmental Protection Agency, you can't generally tell if a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it (unless the material is labeled). Thus, it is best to have older homes inspected by asbestos professionals who are trained and accredited. They will be able to take samples from the home and send them in for testing (taking samples yourself is dangerous). This type of inspection is particularly important for anyone who is planning to remodel or if a home contains building materials that have become damaged (through wear and tear, an accident, or weather damage).
If you are not planning a remodel and no building materials have been damaged, it is usually best to leave asbestos-containing materials alone as they don't pose a health risk. Even so, it is smart to be careful around these types of materials. The EPA recommends never sweeping or vacuuming up debris that may contain asbestos; never sawing, drilling, or scraping materials that may contain asbestos; never using a power stripper to strip wax from a floor that may contain asbestos; never sanding a floor that may contain asbestos; and never moving materials that may contain asbestos through the home. If debris exists, it should be cleaned up by a professional.
Jared Miret is a husband and home handyman loves blogging and sharing information to help with your DIY projects and simple ways to keep your family save and saving money. If you think you have been exposed to asbestos away from home, contact Shrader Law.