How to Know if There is Harmful Asbestos in Your Home

Asbestos can be found in many places, and new homes are no exception. However, homes that were built prior to 1980 usually are more prone to asbestos presence. Places like ceiling tiles, older floor tiles, flashing and roof shingles, insulation, siding, pipe cement, or even joint compound in between sheetrock can contain traces of asbestos.

Vermiculite attic insulation, which has been contaminated with asbestos, may also be present in certain homes. Until August 31st, 2009, you were able to file Canadian claims regarding Zonolite® related property damages, but this is no longer a possibility. 


Asbestos Can Be Hazardous in a Few Ways

When it is released into the air, asbestos becomes very hazardous. Homes and buildings which contain asbestos are at risk of releasing asbestos fibres into the air. For example, when insulation becomes old and starts to deteriorate around pipes, boilers, and furnaces, it can release asbestos particles into the air. When we drill into ceilings or when we patch damaged walls, we can cause asbestos fibres to go airborne and become a danger to us and everyone around us. Even something as simple as turning on a ceiling fan or moving draperies around can spread asbestos dust.


Underground pipes used to transport water to homes can also become damaged asbestos Transite pipes. Transite is a cement material that can deteriorate over time and can contain asbestos. As it continues to deteriorate, the asbestos fibres detach and end up in the drinking water the pipes carry into our homes.


Ways You Can Check Your Home for Asbestos

Although it is a good idea to do visual inspections frequently, most of the time this is not enough to deem your home asbestos-free. A better idea is to sample different locations of your home and send the samples in to a certified lab for inspection and analysis.


The two most commonly used and approved methods of analysis are PLM (Polorized Light Microscopy) and TEM (Transmission Electron Microscopy). There are a few certified laboratories which do the TEM and PLM tests, and they can be found through the National Institute for Standards and Technology. If interested, you can reach them via the following phone number: 800-720-4981.


Information can be obtained through the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) on how to collect samples for asbestos testing, however, the American Lung Association strongly suggests that you let a certified professional take samples instead. This will be a safer choice for you and your family.


What Do I Do if There is Asbestos in My Home?

There are many factors which determine the most effective method of how to deal with asbestos. Things like location, condition of the affected area, and whether it is non-friable or friable, are all factors which have to be taken into account. Friable asbestos can deteriorate rather easily and become airborne quickly, while non-friable asbestos is more tightly bound and can be handled easier as long as it is not cut, sawed, or sanded.


Asbestos containing material might not be dangerous only if it is in good condition and made sure that asbestos fibres can’t be released. You should still monitor such material and make sure that it is checked for signs of damage or deterioration.


Repair and isolation is a valid method of dealing with asbestos containing material, removal is not always necessary. Things like small cuts or tears in insulation can be repaired. As long as the material is in good condition, further damage may be isolated using an airtight barrier. This is generally a temporary solution. Encapsulants, a liquid form of material which provides a seal against asbestos fibres, can be used on walls and ceilings which contain asbestos material in them, but they are only useful if the material is not damaged and will cause more harm if the asbestos containing material is already deteriorating.


The only permanent solution to an asbestos problem is a complete removal of all damaged and deteriorating material. There is a high risk of fibres becoming airborne if the removal is not conducted properly. When the removal is complete, air samples should be taken and submitted for testing to ensure your safety. Appropriate equipment designed for removal of damaged asbestos containing material should be used.


It is of vital importance that you choose a competent professional who is certified to remove or work with asbestos, whether it is for removal or repair. Be warned that many contractors do not have the appropriate certifications to work with damaged or deteriorating asbestos containing materials. Ensure that whoever you choose has taken a federal or state-approved safety course. Use your local health department, Better Business Bureau, and regional EPA office to get a list of service professionals who operate in your area. The EPA also recommends that whoever you choose to do the work is independent from your initial inspector of contamination, this way only necessary work is done and there are no conflicts of interest.

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