Living in a house or office with Asbestos is akin to exposing yourself and other employees to health hazards. Asbestos is a banned substance in the U.S and many other countries. However, due to its previous usage, the WHO estimates that more than 125 million people are exposed to this substance, either in their homes or workplace. Similarly, the Health and Safety Executive estimates that more than 5000 employees succumb to Asbestos-related complications annually.
These are disturbing statistics, and you should be worried about Asbestos presence in your home or office. Unfortunately, Asbestos is odorless and cannot be seen by the naked eye. Therefore, the only way to know if a house or office has Asbestos is to conduct a quick test.
What is Asbestos, and Why Should You Be Worried?
Asbestos is essentially a mixture of six naturally occurring minerals, namely actinolite, crocidolite, chrysotile, tremolite, anthophyllite, and amosite, used in the manufacture of construction materials, such as pipework, floor tiles, and insulation. However, EPA and OSHA began regulating the use of Asbestos in the late 1970s to reduce the harmful effects of these chemicals.
Although some manufacturers still include Asbestos in their products, they shouldn’t surpass the minimum allowed limit of 1%. Nonetheless, EPA continued its push for a total ban of Asbestos products, with the final decision in 2019 resulting in a total ban of several products containing Asbestos. Some the products banned include;
- Cement products
- Roofing felt
- Pipeline wrap
- Sealants, roofing coatings, and adhesives
EPA and OSHA collaboratively regulate how manufacturers use Asbestos in various products due to its perceived toxicity. Continuous exposure and inhalation of significant amounts of Asbestos can lead to stomach and lung tumors.
Interestingly, the high chances are that you have already encountered Asbestos, albeit at low levels, a few times. Homeowners can get serious exposure and develop serious health issues if products containing Asbestos are exposed or damaged during a home remodel or renovation. Below are some indicators that your home might have Asbestos;
- If the building was constructed before 1980
- If your home is roofed with corrugated roofs
- If the vinyl floor or millboard in your home was installed before 1982
- If your home has vermiculite insulation
- If the walls and other areas of the building were constructed using cement sheets
Where Can You Find Asbestos in Your Home?
Unfortunately, since modern products don’t contain Asbestos, finding Asbestos in your home isn’t straightforward. Therefore, if you are searching for the presence of Asbestos in your home, consider checking the following parts;
- Floor tiles
- Popcorn ceilings
- Sheet vinyl flooring
- Pipe cement
- Exterior cement tile siding
- Roofing tiles
- Ceiling cavities
- Wallboard joint compound
- HVAC duct insulation
- Roof flashing
- Some paints
Note that the presence of Asbestos in these housing materials isn’t hazardous. Generally, Asbestos-laden materials that are in good condition cannot release harmful Asbestos fibers. Therefore, it is best to ensure that Asbestos materials are in good condition and not disturbed. The harmful effects of Asbestos begin if the Asbestos-containing material starts getting worn out.
Testing Your Home for Asbestos
Most homeowners won’t have to test their buildings for Asbestos, mainly because Asbestos only becomes hazardous when airborne. However, if you intend to start some construction or renovation or notice some damages to the siding, drywall, or piping, you can be assured of safety by hiring asbestos professionals to test your home.
Home inspection for Asbestos by professionals takes between a few hours and several days, depending on the size and nature of home ownerships. During the inspection, the professionals will;
- Switch off running heating and cooling systems to avoid the spread of airborne particles
- They should cover the floor below the testing area
- Sprinkle water and detergent mixture to the material suspected to contain Asbestos. This reduces the release of Asbestos fibers.
- Pick small sections of the contaminated material. The goal is to disturb the smallest possible area.
- The collected samples are stored in sealed containers to avoid the release of Asbestos fibers.
- They should then clean the inspection area and cover any remaining materials.
- Professionals then send the sample to the nearest accredited lab for testing.
The cost of Asbestos tests varies depending on the size and complexity of the material to be tested. Therefore, you should be ready to spend an average of $500 for a mid-sized home. If you feel the cost of hiring professionals is high, an easier and more affordable way is purchasing an Asbestos testing kit. The kit comes in handy in ensuring a safe sample collection. However, you will have to send the results from the kit to a nearby lab for interpretation.
What to Do If You Find Asbestos in Your Home
How you should react following a positive Asbestos test depends on several factors. You should consider where the Asbestos is present, the condition of the Asbestos-containing material, and whether it is friable or not. Friable materials can easily be crushed into powder, increasing the risk of releasing airborne asbestos fibers. Non-friable materials are tough and tightly bound, meaning Asbestos fibers cannot be released easily unless sanded or sawed.
If the material is in good condition and contained, the material doesn’t pose any danger. However, it should be monitored regularly for signs of damage and deterioration. Depending on the condition, some materials are better repaired than removed. For instance, a small tear in pipe insulation is better off repaired.
Asbestos-laden materials in good condition should be isolated and protected from potential damage and deterioration using airtight barriers or encapsulants. You can also opt for Asbestos removal, which is a permanent solution to this problem. However, removal is dangerous as it can lead to the release of fibers if not done correctly.
Though initially used as a fireproofing and insulation compound, Asbestos poses serious health risks. If your home or office is determined to have Asbestos, you should consider if repairing, covering, or removal is the best option. Regardless of your choice, it is important to hire certified professionals to handle Asbestos abatement.