Asbestos is a mineral possessing useful properties, including thermal stability, strength, and good insulating abilities. Asbestos has been used in many products, from automobile brake pads to thermal insulation.
In the home, asbestos may be found in the following:
Asbestos cement roof tiles
Asbestos cement siding
Resilient flooring (vinyl floor tiles, etc.)
Acoustic ceiling tiles
Stipple paint, spray coatings, patching and joint compounds
Pipe wrap for hot water heating systems
Thermal insulation on heating ducts and heating systems
Door gaskets on furnaces, boilers, and wood stoves
Insulation in walls and ceilings
Vermiculite thermal insulation in attics and walls
What’s the Problem?
Asbestos poses a health risk when the fibers become airborn. Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to lung disease, including asbestosis and lung cancer. Most people who get asbestosis have been exposed to high levels of asbestos over a very long period of time. Symptoms do not usually develop for about 20 to 30 years after exposure.
Today occupational exposure is carefully controlled, and the use of asbestos in products has been dramatically reduced. The products that contain asbestos are better designed to encapsulate the asbestos fibers, preventing them from being released into the environment.
The Risk in Your Home
While most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos do not develop any health problems, a prudent avoidance protocol is best. If you know what contains asbestos in your home, you can take steps to avoid significant and prolonged exposure.
The biggest risk is attempting to remediate on your own. Disturbing asbestos usually makes it become dangerous to your health. In most cases, the best course of action is to leave the asbestos-containing material alone.
If you suspect that materials in your home contain asbestos, you can have them tested. It is not possible to confirm whether a material contains asbestos from a visual inspection. Microscopic examination is required. An expert is required to do the sampling and identification.
What Can You Do About Asbestos?
First and foremost, remediation should be done by an expert. If the asbestos is in good condition, the best course of action by far is to leave the material alone. Asbestos is only a health risk if it is crumbling and damaged. If it shows minor localized damage, it can be repaired by sealing the asbestos fibers with a sealant that sticks the fibers together. This process is called encapsulation.
Removing asbestos is possible but expensive. In some cases, removal is the only option, such as during renovations.
Source: Pillar To Post Information Series