Asbestos in the Home: What You Need to Watch Out For
Asbestos is an abundant mineral that is fire-resistant, durable, and affordable. Because of these qualities, construction companies used it for decades. Inhalation of asbestos may lead to diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Many older homes still contain asbestos, putting residents at risk.
Asbestos Exposure in the Home
In the 1980s, the United States restricted asbestos use. Despite known health issues, there is not a full asbestos ban. This means there may be legacy asbestos in older products, buildings, and homes. Anyone with a home built before these restrictions may be at risk of asbestos exposure.
Construction was one of the largest industries for asbestos use. Common asbestos-contaminated building materials are:
- Asbestos ceiling tiles
- Asbestos floor tiles
- Popcorn ceilings
- Tile and ceiling glue
- Attic insulation
- Pipe insulation
There are federal and state laws requiring asbestos inspections in buildings. However, they generally don’t apply to private homes. If your home was built before the 1980s, it may contain asbestos materials. When should you be concerned?
Finding Asbestos in the Home
Asbestos only becomes dangerous when disturbed and inhaled. This typically only happens during activities like repairs or remodeling. Before renovating older homes, the EPA recommends having a professional check for asbestos.
You can hire an asbestos inspector to perform an assessment. Depending on where you live, they may be state-licensed or federally-licensed. A qualified inspector can look for asbestos throughout the home. If necessary, licensed abatement contractors can handle asbestos removal.
What Does Asbestos Look Like
Mines and manufacturers processed asbestos, turning the fibrous mineral into different forms. There are other materials that look like asbestos, making detection difficult. If you suspect asbestos in your home, it is best to leave it alone. An asbestos inspector can determine if there is any risk and provide next steps.
One of the most high-risk forms is loose-fill asbestos. This is light-colored and fluffy, resembling pillow stuffing. It was often spread out over attic floors. This type can be easily disturbed and inhaled.
Asbestos spray coating is white or gray, thick, uneven, and sometimes painted. This is often used on the underside of roofs or concrete beams.
Asbestos insulation may look like spray coating. It may also be hand-formed and shaped around the pipe or other product.
Where Can Asbestos Be Found in the Home
Individuals can also be on the lookout for visible asbestos in areas where it is often found. Asbestos insulation is one of the easiest materials to spot. Attics may have spray-on asbestos on walls, ceilings, or flooring. It may also be covering pipes for fire protection.
Asbestos ceiling tiles may also be visible, but usually only if they are cracked or broken.
With older homes, exercise caution when checking for asbestos. Asbestos materials that are in good condition are best left alone. It is recommended to avoid any disruptive methods and only look for visible asbestos.
If you suspect your home has asbestos, do not attempt to remove it. An asbestos professional can confirm what it is and how best to proceed.
Asbestos Disease Awareness
Thanks to advocacy groups, awareness is increasing for asbestos diseases. As research continues, there are communities to support those affected by these diseases.
One example is the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. The foundation created Mesothelioma Awareness Day, which raises attention and funds for this cancer.