It’s not a secret that asbestos is a serious health concern, coming under public scrutiny and warnings in the mid 1970's. Prior to then, it was extensively used in building construction materials and insulation. Later, it was discovered that even very short exposures to asbestos could lead to a number of serious health complications, sometimes even ten or twenty years after the initial exposure to asbestos. Today, with extensive awareness, it is very important to confirm that any home, new or old, does not contain asbestos in any form. Thankfully, it was finally banned in 1999.
Here are a few signs that asbestos may be present in your home or commercial building:
l Asbestos can be found in some forms of older paint
l Sprayed coatings as a fire protection
l Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB)
l If your building uses vermiculite attic insulation
l Pipe insulation (used extensively around plumbing and boiler pipes)
l Older vinyl floor tiles, plaster, or fiber cement siding
l If your building was built before 1980
You may not even be aware there is asbestos being present until some of the material becomes cracked or otherwise disturbed. Asbestos crumbles easily if disturbed or handled, which can lead to particles entering the air, and then the lungs.
Just looking at different parts of your home or building isn't enough to know whether there is asbestos present. The only way to be certain is to have a certified inspection of your building, along with proper lab testing and confirmation. It is a good investment that could save your life. Certified lab work is often required for proper analysis, which includes complex processes like PLM, or Polarized Light Microscopy.
The EPA provides assistance to home and commercial building owners that want to take a sample that you believe contains asbestos, but the problem with collecting samples lies in the abovementioned disturbance of materials and introduction of asbestos into the air by accident. It's a far better idea to hire a professional inspection service with asbestos qualifications to both collect and send in any samples, as they will have the proper safety equipment to avoid breathing the substance in.
l Removal is the best option for those that want a permanent solution to their asbestos issue. Removal should only be done by a professional, and air quality samples need to be taken before and after any removal to ensure that asbestos has not been released into circulation. The cost of removal should not be your first concern, but the safe and legal removal must be top priority.
l Consider replacement or isolation of materials. In general, asbestos isn't harmful until it becomes a more powdery, airborne form that you can then breathe into your lungs. If you have detected asbestos in insulation, it may be possible to isolate it to prevent it from entering the air, as long as it isn't already damaged. Different forms of asbestos insulation have different rates of damage and brittleness, so have a professional perform the inspection.
l Only work with certified contractors that use HEPA-rated vacuums, filters, and safety equipment. This is not a DIY project, and isn't something that you should leave in the hands of an amateur that promises a deep discount. You will end up paying far more in medical bills.
Author: Dick Wagner, AskDickWagner, Asbestos removal, certified contractors, restoration coach, commercial marketing consultant