Today, September 26th, is Mesothelioma Awareness Day and we are publishing this article to help raise awareness
Asbestos is a useful building material. It’s fire-resistant, lightweight, relatively cheap, and strong, making it the ideal building material. However, it has one major problem that overshadows all of its positive qualities— exposure to asbestos can cause severe health problems when inhaled or ingested. One of those diseases is mesothelioma pleural— a fast-acting lung cancer with a low survival rate.
Because of this, the Environmental Protection Agency created laws to prevent new structures from using asbestos in the building process. Asbestos use has decreased significantly since the 1980s. However, it’s present in many older homes and buildings, which makes DIY projects more dangerous than they may appear. In honor of Mesothelioma Awareness Day, we’ve compiled a list of common places asbestos can be found in your home.
Insulation is one of the most prevalent places that you may find asbestos in your home. In the past, attic insulation was almost exclusively made of asbestos. Loose asbestos fibers were sprinkled in the floors and walls because of their insulating and fireproofing qualities.
Vermiculite, another mineral, is also a popular insulation material and is harmless to humans. Unfortunately, a brand of vermiculite called Zonolite was contaminated with asbestos and was used in millions of homes across the United States.
In addition to loose asbestos fibers, your attic could also contain asbestos materials like tapes or papers along pipes. This is significantly less dangerous, as the asbestos is unlikely to release into the air unless it is disturbed.
Heating And Air Ventilation
Another common area of your house that likely has asbestos is your HVAC system. Boilers and boiler pipes may have insulation surrounding it. Furnaces and air ducts may have asbestos inside or be made with asbestos tape. Some pipes were even made with asbestos cement because it reinforced them, protecting them against cracking or erosion.
While each of these products are stable when undisturbed, they should be checked regularly during repairs, especially considering that they directly contribute to the air quality of your home. If loose asbestos makes its way into your HVAC system, it could pollute the air and put you and your family at risk.
Popcorn ceilings, vinyl floor tiles, and drywall are all common dwelling places for asbestos in older houses. This is especially true in the areas around stoves because of asbestos’ heat-resistant properties.
Luckily, these asbestos-containing materials are fairly safe to be around. There is a low chance of these materials releasing asbestos fibers into the air as long as they are left alone. However, when it comes time to remove or repair them, these fibers can be released, contaminate the air, and be breathed in by everyone who is around.
It’s crucial that electrical wires are properly insulated to prevent fires. This is usually done through the use of electrical rope, which prevents sparks from turning into flames. In the 1960s and 70s, this rope was made using asbestos.
Because these wires generally remain undisturbed within the walls, they’re not a constant danger. However, if you’re doing electrical work on your house, you’ll likely be maneuvering, cutting, or otherwise fiddling with them. This can release asbestos fibers into the air and poses a serious risk. If there’s even a small chance the wiring was made before the 1970s, then it’s time to call in the professionals.
The outside areas of your house could also be an area of concern. Cement siding was reinforced with asbestos fibers to fire-proof and strengthen the material, and the fact that it’s lightweight meant that manufacturers could use less and still get the same result.
You can often spot asbestos cement tiles used in siding based on the way that they look. They usually appear in the form of 12×24 inch tiles with grooves or patterns pressed into them, and will likely have two to three nails at the bottom of each one.
If your siding or shingles are deteriorating, you have three options, depending on their condition. You can either have them removed by a professional, seal them, or encase them. Don’t cut into them, remove them, or otherwise damage them, because that can cause a health risk that didn’t exist when they were stable.
Appliances And Consumer Products
If your home is filled with antique appliances or other products, be wary of what may contain asbestos. Specifically, many appliance brands made toasters, popcorn poppers, crock pots, and dishwashers with asbestos. If your home still has one from before the 1980s, that’s something to replace.
Many heat-proofing products were also made with asbestos, such as potholders, ironing board covers, and ashtrays. Using these products may disturb the asbestos and release it into the air. Further, asbestos was also used in a few antique beauty products like hairdryers and makeup. This is why it’s important to stay on top of what you’re using on your skin and hair.
How To Manage Asbestos In The Home
If you suspect there’s asbestos in your home, don’t try to handle it on your own. Instead, hire a professional who is trained to handle asbestos to remove it for you. The removal process, also known as asbestos abatement, prioritizes health and safety and is your best way to protect your family. Until you can have it removed, try to leave it undisturbed. Remember, disturbing asbestos releases the fibers into the air, which can cause severe health risks.