Home is where the heart is, and we all want our homes to be haven of safety. Unfortunately, too many homeowners are unaware of a silent killer, asbestos. While it’s easy to think that asbestos is a topic of the past, that is simply not true. Most home exposures now occur during remodels and when changes are being made to a home because asbestos does not become dangerous until it is damaged or removed. Having some key information with common places and what to look for will be important to avoid possible asbestos exposure and the risks that come with it.
Age of the Home
Asbestos was used frequently in homes and buildings constructed before 1980. It was commonly used in building materials, heat-resistant fabrics, manufactured goods, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.
In the home, asbestos may be found in plaster, vinyl floor tiles, caulking, roof and siding shingles, attic and wall insulation, ceiling tiles, broilers and pipes, HVAC duct insulation, oil and coal furnaces, and door gaskets.
Homes built before the 1980’s will most likely have asbestos. However, it’s important to note that asbestos isn’t dangerous until it is damaged or moved. If your home is in good shape, you may not have to worry too much, but you may want to have it removed to avoid any potential problems.
Piping & Insulation
Piping and insulation are one of the most common places asbestos may be present in older homes. Look for pipes that are uninsulated that have white or gray insulation remnants along the fittings. Many older plumbing systems will also be wrapped in asbestos insulation.
Be aware of attics that may have been insulated with vermiculite insulation.
Even drywall can have elements of asbestos, so even drilling or nailing holes to hang a picture can release asbestos fibers into the air. Walls or other areas of the home constructed with cement sheets could also pose potential hazards.
Ceilings & Floors
Floors and ceilings are common places to start when remodeling, so paying attention to the age of your home and consulting with a professional will be important to avoid exposure.
Many textured ceiling finishes, including popcorn ceilings, have concealed asbestos.
Asbestos was also a common adhesive ingredient for vinyl floors from the 1950’s to the 1980’s.
What Should I Do If I Think My Home has Asbestos?
Asbestos in your home does not necessarily mean exposure. Asbestos does not become a problem until it is damaged or disturbed, sending particles into the air. If you suspect your home may have asbestos, it is highly recommended that you have your home evaluated by a professional, especially before starting any home projects.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidelines and information about how to collect asbestos samples for testing. Asbestos can be difficult to detect so an outside lab test will be the best way to determine if there is a problem.
Asbestos left undisturbed will not harm you, but you can choose to have asbestos removed. Removal is best taken care of through a professional that will have the training and knowledge to safely take care of the problem.
Asbestos exposure can have harmful and even deadly consequences if not addressed quickly. Knowing what to watch for and practicing due diligence before starting a home remodel or reconstruction project will be an important step in keeping your home safe from danger.
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