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Asbestos in your Home - Part 2

Date Added: March 08, 2010 05:48:48 PM
Author: Mike Plank
Category: Real Estate & Home Inspection Articles

Asbestos in your Home

Managing The Problem
This is the second and final article in a two-part series on asbestos.

What should be done about Asbestos in the Home?

If you think asbestos may be in your home, don't panic! Usually the best thing is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers.

There is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don't touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing, or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or airflow. Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove top pads or ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental or other appropriate officials to find out proper handling and disposal procedures.

If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.

How to identify materials that contain Asbestos?

You can't tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. Sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Collecting samples without the help of a qualified professional is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take samples on your own, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed by remodeling, for example, should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled.

How do I manage an asbestos problem?

If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal. Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make later removal of asbestos, if necessary, more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor.

Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.

Asbestos do's and don'ts for the homeowner

Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos. Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos material. Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by asbestos professionals.

Don't dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. Don't saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos materials. Don't use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on a dry floor. Don't sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing, install new floor covering over it, if possible. Don't track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area, or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.

by Don McGonagil
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