WHAT IS ASBESTOS & IS IT HARMFUL TO MY HEALTH?

Asbestos can be defined as a type of highly durable mineral fiber found mostly in rocks and soil. Previously asbestos was added to a different type of product to strengthen them, helping in resistance from fire and provide heat insulation. Asbestos-containing materials can only be identified by a special type of microscope.

CAN ASBESTOS AFFECT MY HEALTH ?

Asbestos can surely be hazardous to health and from recent studies, it is observed that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased health risk such as-

  • Mesothelioma, which is a very rare form of cancer generally found on the inner lining of the chest and that of the abdominal cavity.
  • Lung cancer, and
  • Asbestosis, where the lungs become scarred with the fibrous tissue. This can be a very serious long term disease, which certainly needs to be taken care of.

If there is an increase in the number of fibers inhaled, it can always result in the risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer. The chances of getting affected by lung cancer increase to a much higher level if you are a regular smoker. People suffering from asbestosis; have usually been exposed to asbestos for a pretty long time. Mostly these symptoms appear after about 20 to 30 years or more after the first exposure to asbestos. In general, the more you are exposed to asbestos, the more are the chances of developing harmful health effects.

People who are exposed to small amounts of asbestos in their daily day to day lives; do not develop these types of health issues. However, if asbestos is disturbed or deformed by any means it may release asbestos fibers, which when inhaled for a longer period of time can be dangerous. Asbestos products that are sawed, scraped, sanded into a powder, are more likely to be dangerous and might create health issues. For all these reasons, it is always recommended to repair or remove damaged asbestos-containing items from your house. The asbestos removal and the asbestos testing process should always be done with care.

If you want your home to be asbestos-free, and want some professional help do find us on Google at Homeinspectorannarbor.com and request for inspection.

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IS ASBESTOS IN MY HOME ?

Where can we find asbestos and when can it be a problem?

Most of the products that we generally use today or are made in recent days do not contain asbestos. The leftover few items or products which still contain asbestos as an ingredient must be labeled. However, during the ’70s many insulation products used in the home or building materials contained asbestos in them. Some of the most common products that contained asbestos previously, and conditions in which it may release fibers, are as follows-

  • FURNACE DUCTS, BOILERS, and STEAM PIPES were mostly covered and insulated with an asbestos paper tape or blanket. These materials are very prone to releasing asbestos fibers if they are old or damaged, removed improperly or repaired.
  • RESILIENT FLOOR TILES (asphalt, vinyl asbestos, and rubber), the backing on VINYL FLOORING SHEET, and the ADHESIVES used for the installation of floor tiles can also release fibers.
  • The installation of CEMENT SHEET, PAPER, and MILLBOARD used for insulation around furnaces and wood-burning stoves. Removing or repairing these appliances can also release fibers. Other than that tearing, cutting, sanding, sawing or drilling insulation may result in the same.
  • DOOR GASKETS and worn out seals in coal stoves, furnaces, or wood stoves may release asbestos fibers during usage.
  • Walls and ceilings with SOUNDPROOFING or DECORATIVE ARTICLES sprayed or loose, crumble water-damaged materials may also release fibers.
  • JOINT COMPOUNDS AND PATCHING for ceilings and walls, and TEXTURED PAINTS. Scraping, sanding or drilling these types of surfaces may also result in releasing asbestos.
  • ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOFING, SIDING, and SHINGLES. These materials may not release asbestos fibers unless and until they are drilled, sawed or cut.
  • ARTIFICIAL ASHES AND EMBERS mostly used in gas-fired fireplaces and other old house-hold products like STOVE-TOP PADS, FIREPROOF GLOVES, IRON BOARD COVERS, and certain types of HAIRDRYERS may release asbestos fibers.
  • CLUTCH FACINGS, AUTOMOBILE BRAKE PADS AND LININGS, and old GASKETS can also result in releasing of these fibers.

Where you can find asbestos hazards in your house?

  • Siding shingles and some roofing can be made of asbestos cement.
  • Some of the old houses built between the years 1930 to 1950 may contain asbestos as insulation.
  • Usage of vermiculite ore for insulation of the attic and wall, especially the type of ore that originated from a Libby, Montana mine, might contain asbestos fibers. Primarily between 1923 and 1990, vermiculite was mined in Libby, Montana. After its closure in 1990, the most supply of vermiculite came directly from the Libby mine. This mine containing natural deposits of asbestos resulted in the contamination of vermiculite with asbestos.
  • Artificial ashes and embers mostly used in gas-fired fireplaces may also contain asbestos.
  • Textured paints and patching compounds used generally on walls and ceiling joints may also contain asbestos. Thus their usage was banned in 1977.
  • Old house-hold products such as stove-top pads might also contain some asbestos compounds.
  • Asbestos paper, cement sheets, or millboard used in the protection of wood-burning stoves.
  • Door gaskets and oil and coal furnaces may also have asbestos insulation around them.
  • Most old houses in the US with hot water and steam pipes can be seen covered with an asbestos tape or blanket.
  • Asbestos can also be found in some vinyl floor tiles, adhesives and on the backing of vinyl sheet flooring.

How to identify items containing asbestos?

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I FOUND ASBESTOS IN MY HOME, WHAT SHOULD I DO ?

What should you do if you found asbestos in your home?

If you ever found asbestos in your home, the first and foremost thing you should do is not to panic. It can be a better idea if you leave alone the asbestos-containing materials that seem to be in good shape. Mostly, these materials in good condition won’t release asbestos fibers. Try to check the materials at regular intervals if you feel that the substance contains asbestos. Try not to touch it, whereas look for damage such as wear and tear, water damage or abrasions. Mostly, damaged materials may release asbestos fibers and this can be particularly true if these materials are disturbed by rubbing, hitting or handling or if it exposed to continuous vibrations or extreme airflow. The best way to deal with such materials is by limiting access to that area and by not touching or disturbing them. Asbestos fibers are mostly released from worn-out asbestos gloves, damaged stove-top pads or old ironing boards. It is advisable to discard these types of materials. You should always check out with the local health and environmental officials to know the disposal and handling procedures. If you are about to make changes to your house and if it disturbs it, it is recommended to remove or repair it by a professional. Make sure if asbestos materials are present in your house or not, before remodeling it.

How to manage an asbestos problem?

If you find an asbestos item to be in good shape try not to disturb it and do nothing with it. If you find any problem with your asbestos item then there can be only two types of correction- removal or repair. Repairing can be of two types either covering the asbestos material completely or by sealing it.

  • Sealing or encapsulation can be treating the materials with some sort of sealant that either coats the asbestos material or bind them together such that fibers aren’t released. Mostly boiler insulation, furnaces, and pipes are repaired by this method. Something like this should only be done by a professional who is trained to handle the asbestos safely.
  • Enclosing or covering means placing something over and around the asbestos item to prevent the release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping is generally covered by a protective jacket or wrapper.

Repairs are generally cheaper than the removal process, but in the long run, it can make the removal of asbestos costly and more difficult. Repairs can generally be a major or a minor one.

Do’s and Don’ts for a Homeowner if asbestos is found:

  • Try to take each and every precaution by avoiding damage to asbestos materials.
  • Try doing minimum activities in the areas having damaged asbestos materials.
  • Removal or repair of asbestos-containing materials should be done only by trained professionals.
  • Don’t just sweep, vacuum or dust the debris that might contain asbestos.
  • Never scrape, saw, sand or drill holes in asbestos-containing items.
  • The use of brushes or abrasive pads on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring is never recommended. Don’t use a power stripper on a dry floor.
  • Never sand or level asbestos flooring or it's backing. If asbestos flooring needs to be replaced, try installing a new floor covering on it.
  • Never track the area that might contain asbestos through the house. It is always recommended to avoid walking through the asbestos-containing area, or else if walking over the area can’t be avoided clean it up with a wet mop. If any large area needs to be cleaned always call an asbestos professional.

All types of major or minor repairs should only be done by a professional, who is trained and knows all the methods to safely handle asbestos. There is always a risk of asbestos releasing fibers when disturbed.

Doing minor repair by all by you is never recommended since even a bit of improper handling of asbestos materials can always be hazardous.

Removal of asbestos is the most expensive method of all, unless and until it is required by the regulations, it should always be avoided. Removal of these materials possesses the greatest fiber release risk. Removal is only required if you are planning to remodel or make some major changes to your house that might disturb the asbestos item. Also, removal can be done if the material is damaged extensively and cannot be repaired. This process can be a very complex one and should only be done by a contractor having special training. Improper removal of asbestos can be very hazardous and may create health risks for you and your family.

Who are asbestos professionals and what can they do?

Asbestos professionals are people who are trained in handling asbestos-containing materials. Their type generally depends on the type of product and the corrective measures that are needed to be done to correct the problem. In some cases, you can hire a professionally trained person to handle specific materials containing asbestos or rather a general asbestos contractor.  Professionals in this field are trained to conduct home inspections processes, take samples of the materials or assess their condition and can even advise for the corrective measure that is needed. Asbestos removal should always be done with care.

We at home inspector ann arbor take special care and are specialized in all types of asbestos-related problems like home inspection, asbestos testing, sampling, and others. If anytime you want our help feel free to contact us at Homeinspectorannarbor.com and we can make your house asbestos-free as before.