Home and Greenery (3)Asbestos is a fibrous mineral found in nature that was widely used in building materials until the 1970s and even into the 1980s because of its fire-, chemical- and corrosion-resistant properties. If building materials contain more than even 1 percent of asbestos, they are considered asbestos-containing materials and potentially hazardous. Material that you can crumble into a powder with your hand is called friable material, and this is far more dangerous than more stable non-friable material. If you own or are considering buying a home containing asbestos, it is imperative that you be aware of the possible risks.
Asbestos in the Home
If you own an older home, it is possible that asbestos is in the insulation, roof shingles, siding, window putty, ceiling and floor tiles, furnace covering, lining of the air ducts, piping, spray-on acoustical ceilings, textured paint, heat reflectors behind woodstoves and in many other areas. Older appliances such as water heaters, range hoods, dishwashers and clothes dryers may also contain asbestos.
The Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos is dangerous if the fibers are released into the air and you breathe them in. They then become lodged in your internal tissues and become irritated and inflamed. This leads to a number of serious asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, pleural plaques, lung cancer and mesothelioma. These diseases may lie dormant for decades, so that when you begin to manifest symptoms, they are far advanced and difficult to treat.
Repairing Asbestos in the Home
If the asbestos in your home is undamaged, it is not necessary to do anything except keep an eye on it. However, if the asbestos-containing material is deteriorating, or if you are planning to renovate or remodel, you need to somehow prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the air. Repairing involves somehow sealing or covering the asbestos. This work is best done by an asbestos professional. In encapsulation, a special sealant binds the asbestos fibers together so that they cannot be released. This only works if the asbestos-containing materials have not deteriorated too much. In enclosure, material such as a protective wrapping or jacket is used to cover the asbestos-containing material to prevent fibers from escaping.
Removing Asbestos From the Home
Removing asbestos from the home is a last resort, when the asbestos-containing materials are badly damaged or major renovations are planned. Asbestos removal should be done professionally. It involves sealing off the area, wearing protective clothing and a respirator made to filter out asbestos fibers, removing the asbestos-containing material in large pieces to minimize fiber release, sealing the asbestos in leak-proof plastic bags, disposing of it properly, and thoroughly cleaning the area afterward. Improperly removing asbestos is a highly risky procedure that exposes people to dangerous asbestos fibers.
When hiring asbestos professionals to repair or remove asbestos-containing materials, be sure they have federal or state certification and that you sign a written contract stipulating all the work and cleanup that needs to be done. To be sure there is no conflict of interest, hire an asbestos inspector and asbestos corrective-action contractor that are not affiliated with each other.
Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases include shortness of breath, persistent coughing, loss of weight, loss of appetite and chest pain. Are you experiencing asbestos symptoms? If you suspect you may have an asbestos-related disease, contact your doctor for a diagnosis. Be sure to also contact a lawyer that specializes in asbestos litigation for help in obtaining compensation.