Asbestos has been used for its fire and heat resistance in a variety of applications for millennia. It’s been widely used in construction since the late 1800s. In the 1970s, scientists figured out that exposure to asbestos could cause a variety of respiratory issues including cancer. As a result, during the 80s there was a push to remove asbestos from buildings.
Spending time in the building with intact asbestos will not necessarily cause health problems. The problem arises when materials deteriorate or the asbestos is damaged or disturbed so that it is released into the air. In most cases, people with asbestos-related conditions developed them as a result of long-term exposure to asbestos in the air.
This fibers are inhaled they build up in the lungs eventually leading to lung cancer or mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lungs and the lining of the abdominal cavity. Even when exposure to asbestos does not lead to cancer, it can cause permanent scarring of the lung tissue which can themselves be deadly.
Asbestos is a natural form of magnesium silicate can be found in a number of places. The mineral is separated into individual fibers to be used as insulation or added to other products is a flame retardant. Asbestos has been used in paint, insulation, siding, fiberboard, roof shingles, floor tiles, cement, and soundproofing tiles.
Because the harmful effects of asbestos were unknown until the 1970s, and not widely known until the 80s, homes built before then are most likely to contain asbestos. If you live in the US or Western Europe, and your house was built in the 1980s or later, you probably do not have asbestos. But how do you know for sure?
Beginning in the late 1970s, agencies such as the EPA began certifying professionals to identify and remove asbestos. If you suspect that your home may have asbestos, you should call a contractor. You will also want to get your pet, children, and yourself out of the house as taking samples to test can release fibers into the air do not attempt to do this yourself.
What should you do with the samples come back positive? That depends on where it is found, the condition of asbestos, and whether it is likely to be disturbed.
If the asbestos is found in a part of your home that is deteriorating or if you are considering a future remodel, you will want to have it professionally removed.
If, however, the asbestos is in good shape and is in an out-of-the-way area such as in your crawlspace or attic to insulate plumbing, it will be better to leave it in place.
If you do choose not to remove the asbestos, the EPA recommends having it sealed or covered. Sealing involves coating the asbestos with a product designed to bind the fibers together, preventing fibers from being released even if the asbestos is disturbed. Covering asbestos involves wrapping it so that it will not be disturbed.
Regardless of whether you choose to remove the asbestos, seal it, or cover it, you should hire a professional contractor to take care of it, as these activities can release fibers for you to inhale.
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