Many people associate asbestos with homes that are older or run-down, but the truth is that asbestos can be found in homes built through the late 1980s. Learn about areas of your home that may contain asbestos and what to do if you find this toxic mineral in your house.
Asbestos is a natural fiber that has been valued for its insulation and heat-resistance properties since the days of the Ancient Egyptians. Asbestos is also the only known cause of mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer, and a potential cause of asbestosis, lung cancer, and a number of other serious illnesses. While most use of asbestos was banned in the United States by the 1980s, many American homes feature a number of products that are made from asbestos.
Areas in the home that may contain asbestos fibers include:
- Insulation in walls and attics (until 1990), and around furnaces, boilers, and other heating systems
- Floor tiles
- Artificial features in gas fireplaces (including artificial logs)
- Materials used to paint and patch walls (especially before 1977)
Now that you know where asbestos may exist in your home, it’s important not to panic: most people are only exposed to very small amounts of asbestos and this level of exposure is typically not harmful. However, if you are really concerned about asbestos levels in the air in your home, you can have this tested by an asbestos professional.
You can’t always tell if an item has asbestos in it just by looking at it. In many cases, a sample will need to be taken and analyzed for asbestos fibers. Just because a feature of your home contains asbestos, this does not mean that the asbestos is automatically a danger to you and your family. In some cases, asbestos is contained or “encapsulated” so that it cannot enter the air.
There are a number of ways you can deal with asbestos in your home. One way to manage this problem is to seal the affected area, coating fibers so that they are not released into the air. In some cases, you can also place a protective cover over the area to prevent release of asbestos fibers. Eventually, though, you may need to remove any contaminated features from your home.
Do not try to remove asbestos from your home yourself. There are asbestos abatement professionals who have the training and equipment needed to remove asbestos safely, and this job should always be trusted to those professionals.
While we’re on the subject, it’s important to note that mesothelioma is a very rare disease, and it shows up decades after asbestos exposure. If you see asbestos and develop a cough the next day, odds are that you don’t have this type of cancer. Still, asbestos is dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible. If you suspect there is asbestos in your home, contact a professional and work with them to decide the best way to contain or remove the fibers.