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Should you worry about asbestos in your home?

Ever since the 1980s, worry surrounding asbestos has been on the mind of every new homeowner and those interested in purchasing property, and for good reason. Asbestos is known for causing serious illness and disease, like cancer and respiratory issues. Once the harmful effects were discovered, the hysteria to remove it also began. Through the years, asbestos has been removed from buildings throughout the entire world, but since this fibrous material spreads easily, there are still places harboring it. With the high cost of removal and the dangers involved in moving it, many are wondering if it is better to leave it undisturbed.

 

When is asbestos dangerous?

The most common way for asbestos to enter the body is by breathing it in. If the material itself is unbroken and in one piece, it does not necessarily pose a threat, though experts will caution you not to touch it if you think you’ve found asbestos in your home. Once it is broken and its fibers are released into the air, you risk inhaling or ingesting the material, and it becomes hazardous.

What kind of health problems can asbestos cause?

Asbestos fibers are incredibly difficult to destroy. Once these fibers enter the body, they lodge themselves into the tissue and the body can’t do anything to break them down. It’s when they’re lodged in the body that they cause serious damage.

The most common sicknesses associated with asbestos is cancer and respiratory issues, such as:

  • Mesothelioma-a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and sometimes the heart.
  • Asbestosis-a chronic respiratory disease that has no effective form of treatment.
  • Lung cancer-this cancer causes the largest amount of asbestos-related deaths

It’s important to note that these diseases were developed over a lengthy period of time in people who were working with asbestos on a nearly daily basis. Some of these people worked in shipyards, mines, and spent extended periods of time renovating or demolishing buildings.  

Where can I find asbestos?

If you’re worried that your house might contain asbestos, the best place to start looking is in the air duct system. But there are several other locations where asbestos could be hiding. Some of these include:

  • Roofing and siding
  • Ceiling and flooring tiles
  • Artificial embers in gas fireplaces
  • Vermiculite insulation in walls and attics

Identifying asbestos can be tricky. The next step you can take to identify it is get an expert to take a sample and send it off to a lab to be tested. If you think you’ve found asbestos, it’s important not to disturb it or touch it and release its harmful fibers into the air. If you’re thinking about removing asbestos found in your home, consider the following:

  • Is there an alternative to removing it, like covering it with a non-asbestos product?
  • Is it in good enough condition to leave it alone?
  • Should you get the help of a licensed asbestos removalist?

What should I do if I accidentally break asbestos?  

If you accidentally break asbestos and release the dust particles in the air, there’s no need to panic. Take a wet cloth and wipe up any dust that was disturbed, and when you’re finished, put the cloth into a baggie, tie it up, and throw it in the trash bin. It’s important to dispose of the asbestos and cloth immediately. A regular vacuum cleaner is unable to filter out all of the asbestos particles and will only spread the fibers in the air, so refrain from using one to clean up the disturbed material. If you’re able to tape off the material where you found the cracked asbestos, do that without disturbing it further.

Finding asbestos in your home or on your property is not the end of the world. Simply remember that if it is undisturbed, it is pretty much harmless. If you’re uncertain, then call an asbestos removal specialist who can answer any of your questions and address your concerns.

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