Does Your Home Have Asbestos?
Our previous article outlined the potential mold hazards you may encounter during a renovation project. Mold is not your only concern, asbestos should be too.
The purpose of this article is three-fold.
First, to provide you with some general facts about asbestos.
Second, to uncover the most prominent myths about asbestos.
Third, explain why you should be concerned about asbestos, particularly if you are planning any major renovations to your property.
The word “asbestos” comes from a Greek word that means “inextinguishable“. Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that has been used extensively because of its heat strength, tensile strength, and insulating properties. It has been used in thousands of products:
- Automotive Parts: brake pads, clutches, hood liners, gaskets and valves;
- Tiles: Flooring, ceiling and roofing tiles were commonly made with asbestos. The adhesive used to lay down flooring tiles has also been a source of exposure
- Cement: Asbestos-containing cement was used in building materials because the fibers provided strength without adding much weight. Its insulating and fire-resistant properties also made the mineral an ideal substance to add to cement;
- Construction: adhesives, mastics and gunning mix, ductwork connectors, floor backing, drywall taping compounds, and insulation; and
- Textiles: Asbestos was used in the production of cloths and garments for its resistance to heat and corrosive elements. Some of the most common textiles included blankets, fireman suits and rope.
There are six types of asbestos: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite.
Exposure to asbestos is linked to many diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma and has been described as a ticking time bomb because the health effects from exposure to asbestos may take 20 or more years to surface.
Asbestos poses health risks when the fibers are airborne and can be breathed in. When asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs they cause scarring that can lead to impaired lung function, asbestosis, and eventually cancer, mesothelioma. The best defense against breathing in asbestos fibers is awareness and understanding.
The video below, created by Work Safe BC, shows you what happens to the lungs when exposed to asbestos:
Many people believe that asbestos disease is no longer a problem; believe that it only affects the elderly; and also believe that it is safe with minimal exposure. These are all myths:
1. Asbestos is still a concern!
2. Mesothelioma is not just a disease of the elderly!
3. There is no safe exposure to asbestos!
According to a UK based newspaper, tradespeople are not the only ones at risk of asbestos-related diseases. An increasing number of cases involving white-collar workers (teachers, doctors and office workers) who worked in environments containing asbestos are now beginning to get asbestos diseases.
In fact, a new generation of mesothelioma victims is emerging, individuals that never worked with asbestos, but were unknowingly exposed. Pulitzer prize winning investigative journalist, Gary Cohn, wrote an article, “Daughters of the Dust: The Changing Face of Mesothelioma,” which documents the fact that women are developing mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos dust from their father’s work clothes.
The basic problem with asbestos is that there is no safe level of exposure and since it is not yet banned in many countries, it is clear that the impact of asbestos disease is not just on workers, but also individuals that are unknowingly exposed to asbestos: children, spouses, and white collar workers exposed to asbestos in their working environments.
Asbestos Risks During Renovation Projects!
Asbestos is found in floor tiles, roofs, furnaces, plumbing, appliances, fireplaces and window caulking.
The diagram below provides you with an excellent visual of where you will find asbestos in your home.
Take 5 And Stay Alive, a UK based website provides some excellent advice to DIY’ers considering a home renovation project. They advise that you ask these five key questions before beginning any project:
- Do you suspect there’s asbestos on site? Click here to review an asbestos image gallery which shows you many materials where asbestos can be found.
- Can you be sure it’s asbestos? The best way to determine if there is asbestos is to hire a professional to take a sample and then send it to a lab for testing.
- What’s the level of risk and how do you handle it safely? If it is verified that there is asbestos, then the risk level must be determined.
- Have you had the right type of training? Anyone working with asbestos needs to have training and this is the reason professionals should be consulted before any removal begins.
- Are you taking safety precautions to minimise the risks? Asbestos abatement workers wear protective suits, have specialized training, and know how to dispose of asbestos safely.
Considering the above information it is very important that you understand the potential risks of asbestos exposure before beginning any renovation project. Do not simply rush into a project and begin demolition because once the fibers become friable you will create an unhealthy living space for you and your family.
If you suspect that you have asbestos in your home, the first action you should take is to call in a professional to take samples that can be tested. Once the samples are tested, the amount and type of asbestos can be determined.
If you have already begun renovations and not yet had an asbestos survey done and suspect that you may have released some asbestos fibers into the air, take these precautions.
- Do not disturb the material further while you are waiting for a professional to assess the situation.
- Do not sweep up or vacuum any debris.
- Prevent cross contamination through the rest of the home by avoiding the area.
- Turn of your HVAC system (air conditioner and furnace) to prevent the spread of asbestos fibers throughout the home. In addition, you should also seal off all hot air vents and cold air returns.
- If you intend to go into the area were there is suspected asbestos, wear an N95 respirator, preferably a Magenta HEPA filter on a half face respirator.
- To prevent fibers from getting into other areas of the home, you need to contain the area, meaning you seal it off using 6 mil poly.
- Finally, if for safety reasons, you believe that you must do some of the clean up on your own, buy an abatement HEPA vacuum and vacuum the area thoroughly and most importantly, wet wipe using soap and water covering every square inch including the ceiling, walls and all contents.
MSZ offers asbestos testing, surveying, and abatement services. If you suspect you have asbestos please contact us. We look forward to serving you!
— MSZ Restoration (@mszrestoration) September 23, 2015