09 Apr What is Asbestos Exposure in the Home?
We often consider our diet, fitness, and hygiene to be the primary solutions to fighting infections and illness. However, our indoor home environments could also factor into our overall wellness, like the presence of toxins.
Global Asbestos Awareness Week is honored worldwide, and this campaign calls out the misleading or ignorant thoughts about asbestos while also pushing for communities to speak up and become champions for their health. The effects of asbestos are an active problem in the U.S., which is why homeowners nationwide need to know about how asbestos can impact them. Asbestos is a known toxin that can compromise your health in a number of ways if exposed.
What is Asbestos
Historically asbestos was used throughout the mid-20th century in homes as a heat and electrical-resistant additive that helped strengthen buildings and homes. In the 1970s, federal laws against the use of asbestos appeared as it was connected to aggressive diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Homeowners were at risk due to the ability for asbestos fibers to become airborne after asbestos-containing materials were broken or renovated within the home.
In 1984, the New York Times published an article surrounding the new investigation about asbestos and the following health concerns. They noted that the presence of asbestos was widespread throughout buildings in the US. Materials and products contaminated with asbestos were installed for decades up until the late 70s. The health hazards were unknown to the public and individuals were unaware of the hazardous health effects of asbestos exposure previously.
What You Should Know About Asbestos in the Home
Asbestos has long been thought of as a health concern in “other people's houses”. In reality, however, asbestos containing materials became commonplace in homes constructed prior to 1980. Even today, many homes built prior to 1980 contain products or materials that contain asbestos including:
- Insulation in walls and attics
- Older heating systems
- Older ductwork and piping systems
- Floor tiles
- Shingles and/or siding for homes
Because asbestos was relatively inexpensive and highly resistant to heat, it was used regularly in the building across the country for many years.
For example, when older asbestos insulation around boilers, furnaces, and pipes deteriorates and becomes friable, it can release asbestos fibers into the air which can be a significant health concern for occupants. Non-friable asbestos, on the other hand, is more tightly bound with other materials and its fibers cannot easily become airborne unless they are sanded, cut, or sawed.
More specifically, the following chart provides additional detail on the most common residential housing components that could contain elements of asbestos:
|RESIDENTIAL HOUSING COMPONENT: INSULATION IN WALLS AND ATTICS|
Some homes may contain an older type of insulation in their attics and walls called vermiculite insulation. Vermiculite insulation often looks like kitty litter and was typically purchased in bags and dumped in attics or walls of homes. In many cases, vermiculite insulation has been covered up by newer insulations such as fiberglass or cellulose. The main problem is that some vermiculite insulation contains asbestos fibers and some does not. And it is impossible to distinguish between the vermiculite that contains asbestos and the vermiculite that does not without laboratory testing. Since a large amount of vermiculite insulation was sold under the name Zonolite, the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust was created to help educate the public about the possible health effects of asbestos-containing vermiculite and to provide partial reimbursement for Zonolite removal to qualified claimants. This Trust is expected to operate for a minimum of 20 years. If you would like more information, click on the following link: https://www.zonoliteatticinsulation.com/S/Get-Started
|RESIDENTIAL HOUSING COMPONENT: OLDER HEATING SYSTEMS, DUCTWORK AND PIPING SYSTEMS|
Heat, moisture, and time can cause materials on boilers, duct systems and piping containing asbestos to fail. When asbestos insulation around these items deteriorates and becomes friable, it can release asbestos fibers into the air which is a significant health concern. Click on the following link for asbestos insulation:
|RESIDENTIAL HOUSING COMPONENT: FLOOR TILES|
Asbestos has been added to vinyl floor tiles since the 1930s. Dozens of manufacturers made vinyl floor tiles that contained asbestos that were installed in homes prior to 1980. For more information on vinyl floor tiles that contain asbestos fibers, click on this link: https://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/products/asbestos-tiles/
|RESIDENTIAL HOUSING COMPONENT: ROOF SHINGLES/SIDING FOR HOMES|
Manufactured from a mix of asbestos fibers and cement, asbestos-cement siding and roof shingles were rigid, durable, and fireproof. During its time of maximum use, asbestos roof shingles and siding were considered an invaluable resource that offered a superior, inexpensive alternative to traditional shingles and roof coverings. Many homes still have asbestos shingles on their walls and roofs and, if they are in good condition and left undisturbed, most times are not a serious problem. Check out this link here for alternative shingles:
If you are concerned about the possible existence of asbestos in your home, don’t touch or damage the material. Even if the material is in good condition, the best option is to leave it alone.
If a material in your home is suspected to contain asbestos and appears damaged or future activities could disturb it, contact a trained and accredited asbestos professional for an asbestos inspection and testing. While waiting for the test results, it’s best to avoid touching the material suspected to contain asbestos until the tests are complete. It is also important to limit access to the area until a professional can confirm the presence of asbestos.
If testing has confirmed asbestos, a professional may suggest leaving it alone if it is in good condition as long as there are no signs of damage and it is in a location where it will not be disturbed. However, after testing the material, it may make sense to have it removed or encapsulated. Encapsulation involves leaving it in place and covering the material with a protective coating to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. At no point should a homeowner attempt to perform encapsulation or removal of asbestos on their own.
GreenHomes America believes the best way to avoid asbestos exposure is for homeowners and occupants to become more knowledgeable about the asbestos materials that could be in your home, including their locations, current condition and what steps should be taken to maximize health and safety in the home. Find a certified contractor here: https://www.greenhomesamerica.com/
Asbestos in the home is not uncommon but it is a risk that you can avoid. Similar to other carcinogens, this risk can be mitigated and ultimately removed if you feel it is an imminent danger. Asbestos is not the only additive for building materials, and there are safer alternatives that do not cause cancer or other health implications. There is no reason why asbestos should be a continuous issue for homeowners, contractors, and renovators. This toxic fiber can affect almost anyone--which is why the push for a global asbestos awareness is informative and crucial to everyone. Homeowners can use this knowledge to prepare for possible exposures and learn more about the risks of asbestos materials and other products.