Asbestos has been a part of the modern built world for more than a century because of its chemical, mechanical, and electrical properties. These desirable properties led to asbestos being used in a range of manufactured products, mostly in building materials, friction products, and heat-resistant fabrics. The durability of asbestos fibers made them ideal for building materials like insulation, drywall, paint, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roof tiles, vinyl flooring, pipe insulation, etc. If you live in a house that was constructed before the mid-1980s, you may have asbestos in your home.
How asbestos becomes a hazard
Levels of fibers and dust may be higher in buildings containing asbestos materials, especially where the materials are damaged. As a result of physical processes such as drilling, grinding, buffing, cutting, or striking, the tiny fibers break off and they may remain airborne for long periods of time before settling in the dust. Water damage, continual vibration, aging, and physical impact can also increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials, making fiber release more likely.
When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs, where inflammation and tissue scarring may gradually occur over the years. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, as even the slightest amount of asbestos dust or fibers lodge in the lungs, causing the emergence of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the thin lining surrounding the lungs and other organs. Recent studies have shown an elevated incidence of breast cancer in women who have been exposed to asbestos fibers. Usually, both malignant and benign inflammatory-fibrotic disorders occur decades after exposure to asbestos fibers. Early detection of asbestos-related disease is vital, as most of the illnesses caused by asbestos exposure may metastasize, spreading to other parts of the body and negatively impacting the patient’s prognosis.
Asbestos – more dangerous for children
The danger of asbestos is that it may lead to potentially lethal diseases. Asbestos has been declared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a proven human carcinogen. Astonishingly, 132,000 primary and secondary schools in the U.S. used asbestos as a construction material. Experts from the Children’s Environmental Health Network point out that children are considerably more susceptible to environmental hazards than adults, because they breathe differently and have different lung structures. That may cause a greater amount of asbestos fibers to stay in the lungs of a child when they are inhaled.
A number of studies have been specifically conducted to determine the relationship between the age at which the first asbestos exposure occurs and the development of mesothelioma. The results indicated that people exposed to asbestos in childhood have a higher risk of mesothelioma than those exposed in adulthood. Invariably, children drink more fluids per kilogram of body weight than adults. If the source of water is tainted by asbestos-containing cement pipes, the child could come into contact with the toxic mineral.
Spotting asbestos in your home
The hazardous mineral could be in any part of your home, from floor tiles to rook sheets, toilet seats to wall panels. Popcorn ceiling and coating on walls and beams may also contain asbestos, as well as any decorative varnishes and plasters. There is also the possibility that asbestos fibers were mixed in the cement sheeting from the floors and from the walls, not to mention that there might also be asbestos-embedded lagging on the hot water pipes.
As there are a number of places asbestos may be found in your home, the best we can do is tell you where asbestos is likely to hide:
- Floor tiles
- Ceiling tiles
- Interior walls
- Roofing and siding
- Asbestos-cement pipes
- Window putty
- Internal and external ventilators
- Backing of vinyl sheet flooring
- Wood burning stoves/Fireplaces
- Textures paint and patching compounds
A visual inspection of your home is usually not sufficient to determine if it contains asbestos. Don’t wait until you or someone you love has developed a life-threatening illness to find out if your house contains asbestos. If you are concerned about a specific material in your home, you should seek advice on appropriate action to take. An expert lab test using polarized light microscopy may be needed in order to identify the specific type of fiber and the presence of asbestos in the air, dust or drinking water samples.
Asbestos abatement and removal
The procedures used for dealing with asbestos in your home depends on where the asbestos is found, the condition of the material, and whether it is friable or non-friable. In some cases, asbestos-containing materials may be repaired or isolated, in other cases, they must be removed. But this begs the question: How do you know if you need asbestos removal? The most suitable person to answer whether the asbestos materials in your home need to be removed is a licensed asbestos contractor. We highly recommend you to invest in safe removal in order to protect your family and ensure that you are not exposed to asbestos.
Removing asbestos materials from your house is not always necessary. They might not pose a threat to your health as long as the asbestos-containing materials are in good condition. The risk of exposure will be minimal to nonexistent if asbestos in the home is left undisturbed or left to the professionals to remove or contain.
About the author:
Gregory A. Cade is the principal attorney at Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., with a legal experience of over 20 years in various toxic exposure cases. His work consists in representing injured victims and their families with the purpose of obtaining substantial recoveries. Gregory A. Cade is very devoted to helping injured victims, be it in an environmental setting, in a mass setting or a class action setting.