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Asbestos In Your Home

Date Added: March 08, 2010 04:52:15 PM
Author: American Home Inspector Directory
Category: Real Estate & Home Inspection Articles

Asbestos In Your Home

Identifying The Problem Part One:
This is the first article in a two-part series on asbestos.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber. It can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.

How can Asbestos Affect my Health?

From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue. The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled.

The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that is friable or would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.

Where can I find Asbestos and when can it be a Problem?

Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes built prior to and during the 1970’s contained asbestos.

Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers include steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly. Asbestos hazards in the home may also include resilient floor tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber), the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, adhesives used for installing floor tile may contain asbestos, sanding tiles and/or scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal, cement sheet, millboard and paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood burning stoves.

Asbestos hazards in your home may include repairing or removing appliances, cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling or sawing insulation, removing door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves and coal stoves or removing worn seals or using dated appliances, soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings, loose, crumbly or water-damaged material, patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings and textured paints. Asbestos cement roofing, shingles and siding products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, drilled or cut. Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces, older household products such as fireproof gloves, stove top pads, ironing board covers, certain hairdryers, late model automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets may also contain asbestos.

Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement. Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation. Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977. Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos. Older products such as stovetop pads may have some asbestos compounds. Walls and floors around wood burning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets. Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives. Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape. Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

By Don McGonagil

Home Inspections


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