Asbestos. You’ve likely heard the term mentioned during home improvement shows. Although you may not be totally clear about what it is, you know that it can create a harmful living environment for you and your family. How do you know if asbestos is in your home, and how can you get rid of it?
What is Asbestos?
Widely used in homes from the 1940s through the 1970s, asbestos was an inexpensive fire-retardant material and thermal acoustic insulator. Although it was effective, asbestos was later discovered to lead to lung damage and possibly lung cancer after prolonged inhalation of the small, abrasive fibers it released when disturbed or damaged.
Where is Asbestos?
In homes built before 1975, asbestos was commonly used as thermal insulation on basement boilers and pipes. But its uses did not stop there. It can also be found in HVAC duct insulation, home siding, fiber cement siding, plaster, vinyl floor tiles, and in some types of linoleum. It may also be present in glue that adheres floor tile to wood or concrete, blown-in attic insulation, window caulking and glazing, certain roofing materials, paints, and even in some corrugated heavy-duty panels.
What to Do if You Find Asbestos
If you think that you have asbestos in your home, and the material is damaged (scraped, sawed, sanded, or in such a condition that it crumbles), or if you plan to make changes in your home that might disturb the material—like a renovation, you should have the area inspected by an industrial hygiene firm who will take samples. If the samples test positive for asbestos, the inspector will provide a written report with recommendations for correction or prevention. At that point, you should contact an asbestos abatement contractor who will establish a clean-up plan based on the report. The inspector can follow-up to verify that the area has been properly cleaned.
Finding asbestos material in your home does not always mean it’ll require remediation. If the material is in good condition and not damaged, it won’t release asbestos fibers. In this case, the best thing to do is to leave it alone—disturbing it may create a health hazard where there was none. Always consult an industrial hygiene firm.
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