Asbestos in Your Home – National Cancer Prevention Month

Asbestos was used extensively for decades in home construction and as a result, many homes today built before 1980 may contain asbestos in some form. From insulation to floor tiles, asbestos can be found in nearly every part of your home, but it can be difficult to detect to with the naked eye. If you suspect your home may contain asbestos, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of you and your family.

Asbestos fibers can either be friable, or non-friable. Friable asbestos fibers mean that the asbestos containing material can be crumbled or reduced to an air-borne powder by just using hand pressure. If it cannot, then it is considered non-friable. Friable asbestos fibers are very dangerous because once released into the air, they are a health risk.

Common products that contain friable asbestos fibers:

  • Insulation
  • Acoustical plaster
  • Paper products
  • Spackling compound

Common products that contain non-friable asbestos fibers:

  • Floor tiles
  • Siding
  • Roofing

Non-friable asbestos fibers do not pose a threat because they are not not air-borne; however, they can become friable if handled improperly.

Keep an eye on it – do not touch!
If you suspect there is asbestos in your home, the first steps are to not panic, keep an eye on it, and don’t touch it. Asbestos-containing materials that are not damaged do not pose a health threat, so by touching the material, you are risking further damage by disturbing the fibers. Damage to asbestos-containing materials may also just happen over time as the material deteriorates, so it is important to regularly keep on an eye on the matter and visually check for signs of wear and tear.

Check for Damage
If there is an area in your home that you are confident contains asbestos, immediately check for damage to the site. Tears, abrasions, and water damage can expose harmful asbestos fibers and put you and your family at risk for inhalation. Limit access to the area and be sure to not touch and further disturb the fibers. Exposed asbestos in the home means either it needs to be repaired, or removed. Either way, an asbestos professional is needed from this point forward.

Call a Professional
According to the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, “if asbestos-containing material is more than slightly damaged or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a trained and accredited asbestos professional is needed.” Asbestos professionals can either be inspectors or contractors. An inspector will further explore your home, assess the conditions of the asbestos-containing material, and take samples.  Inspectors also makes sure that proper procedures are followed during the removal and repair process and will even test the air quality after the contractor completes the job. Asbestos contractors are hired to remove or repair asbestos. Asbestos removal occurs when the material is damaged beyond repair and must always be done by an asbestos professional. Asbestos that is more than slightly damaged or that could be disturbed during a demolition or renovation may be able to be repaired through sealing (encapsulation), or covering (enclosing) to keep the asbestos in place. Sealing binds the asbestos fibers together and covering involves placing a substance around the material to prevent the fibers from escaping.

During National Cancer Prevention month it is important to know how you can protect yourself from this carcinogen that is most likely lurking in your home. Asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma and often times those suffering were unaware they were even exposed.

Learn more about EPA guidelines for Asbestos in Your Home


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