Asbestos - once common element in residential building products is now known to cause serious health problems such as lung cancer and other fatal lung problems from breathing in the asbestos fibers.
Asbestos products have since been banned from residential applications but as late as 1989, the use of asbestos products in the U.S. exceeded 55,000 tons per year. With those numbers, there is a good chance you may find asbestos in your home if you live in a pre-1980s house. Specifically houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation. You should also be aware that older homes may have asbestos in the paint and wall patching compounds, appliance components, sheet flooring, ceiling and floor tiles, caulk, drywall and roofing and siding shingles.
ASBESTOS IN YOUR HOME
If you think asbestos may be in your home, don't panic! Usually the best thing is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Asbestos material that is ever disturbed by handling, hitting, rubbing, or exposed to airflow or extreme vibration can be hazardous. If you find damaged asbestos material, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal.
Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material.
With any type of repair - major or minor - the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make later removal of asbestos, if necessary, more difficult and costly.
- Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace, and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely.
- Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket.
Hiring a Professional
Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos.
Asbestos professionals can conduct home inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and advise about what corrections are needed and who is qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors repair or remove asbestos materials. In addition to general asbestos contractors, you may select a roofing, flooring, or plumbing contractor trained to handle asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, flooring, siding, or asbestos-cement pipe that is part of a water system. Normally, roofing and flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements because they do not perform any other asbestos-correction work.
Make sure you hire professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable, and accredited - especially if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a professional, ask for references from previous clients. Find out if they were satisfied. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations. Get cost estimates from several professionals, as the charges for these services can vary.
Never try to remove or handle asbestos yourself. Do not dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These steps will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove dust by wet mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors.
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