Asbestos was a popular material for most of the twentieth century, primarily because of its ability to provide outstanding insulation and act as an effective fire retardant. However, risks associated with inhaling asbestos fibers have been uncovered in recent decades, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.
If you live in a home built prior to 1980, there’s a chance that you are living with asbestos. For most households, this will never pose a problem. According to the National Cancer Institute, most people are exposed to low levels of asbestos, as it is present in air, soil and water. Only those who are exposed to high levels of the material on a regular basis, such as asbestos product workers, asbestos mine, mill or transportation workers and their family members, typically become ill. Asbestos only becomes dangerous when it is airborne and gets into your lungs.
Finding asbestos in your home may be an alarming discovery, and it can be difficult to know how to handle it. Here are five tips on what to do if you find asbestos.
- Don’t Touch It
Generally, materials containing asbestos that are in good condition and will remain undisturbed will not release harmful fibers. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, finding asbestos in your home is no reason to panic, as there is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled. Avoid compromising the integrity of the material by leaving it alone.
- Keep an Eye On Materials Containing Asbestos
While there’s no need to worry about removing intact materials containing asbestos, you should still exercise caution. Refrain from touching the material, but check it regularly for signs of tears, degradation or water damage. This is especially necessary if the material has been handled regularly or has been exposed to air flow or extreme vibration.
- Limit Access to Damaged Material Containing Asbestos
If you discover that the material containing asbestos has slight damages, the best thing you can do is to limit access to the area and avoid handling it. Check with your local health or environmental officials for proper handling and disposal procedures for asbestos ironing board covers, stove top pads and gloves.
- Use Caution When Remodeling
If your home remodel requires demolition, you may risk turning asbestos into airborne dust. Never use a drill, a sander or a saw on material containing asbestos. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also warns against sweeping or vacuuming asbestos debris, as this can cause the fibers to break into smaller and more dangerous pieces. It is also important to note that in some areas, disposing of asbestos in normal trash collection is not only dangerous and irresponsible, but it is also illegal.
If you are remodeling an area of your home that contains asbestos, hire a contractor. Completing the job yourself increases the risk of damaging the asbestos in insulation, floor coverings or ceiling tiles, putting your household in unnecessary danger of exposure. An asbestos abatement contractor can remove and dispose of asbestos safely.
- Hire a Professional for Asbestos Repair or Removal
If you find damaged asbestos in your home, hire a professional to repair or remove the problem. Generally speaking, repair involves encapsulating or sealing the asbestos, preventing the fibers from going airborne. The asbestos will remain in place, but it will be covered by a sealant or an enclosure, eliminating the risk of inhalation.
If you will be completing a home renovation or if the material containing asbestos is beyond repair, removal may be necessary. The removal process is complex, and it should only be carried out by a licensed professional with the proper equipment and training. Improper asbestos removal may put your household more at risk by increasing exposure to the fibers.
Finding asbestos in your home is not usually cause for alarm, but it is important to know how to safely handle it. By following these tips, you can ensure the safety of yourself and your household.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Econoheat., the world’s #1 leading manufacturer of the largest waste oil burning product line