Locating and Identifying Asbestos in Your Home

Identifying Asbestos in Your HomeBefore beginning home improvement projects, homeowners should make sure there is no asbestos in the area that they plan to renovate. Asbestos-containing products are common in homes built before the 1980s where the original construction materials are still present.

As long as the fibers are not exposed to the air, they are not a health threat. However, construction work or DIY renovations can release the fibers into the air. If the home’s residents inhale these fibers, they may increase their risk for an asbestos related cancer. However, with proper awareness and handling procedures, homeowners can safely renovate their houses without causing an asbestos exposure hazard.

Common Asbestos Locations in the Home

Asbestos can be found in multiple locations across the home. Attics, roofs and basements are some of the most frequently contaminated areas in older homes. However, asbestos-containing construction products can be located anywhere in the house.

Locations that may contain asbestos products (and the products that commonly contribute to the contamination) include:

  • Attics (vermiculite insulation from Zonolite or other brands)

  • Ceilings (ceiling tiles, popcorn ceiling finishes)

  • Floors (linoleum tiles, vinyl tiles, tile adhesives, bonding cement)

  • Walls (textured coatings, paint, patching compounds, fibreboard, bricks, spackle)

  • Heating or cooling systems (HVAC ductwork, pipe insulation, tape)

Homeowners have also found asbestos contaminating in their gardens in the form of potting soil and fertilizers. However, this is not as big of a threat in today’s homes. The last reports that detected asbestos in fertilizer or potting mixtures date back to 2001.

What to Do if There is Asbestos in your Home

Homeowners may not be able to immediately determine whether there is asbestos in a product just by looking at it. On some occasions, the fibers are visible in cracked, chipped or crumbling products. They are white or gray and fluffy or wispy. Homeowners might also be able to visually identify asbestos-containing vermiculite, which looks like small, beige or gray rocks. However, the fibers are fully encapsulated in most products.

When dealing with these products, homeowners should request a professional asbestos inspection before they begin any home improvement projects. The company can take samples from potentially contaminated products and send them to a laboratory for a complete evaluation.

If an asbestos inspection confirms the presence of asbestos, homeowners should take special precautions to avoid disturbing the product. Do not move, throw away, tear out or otherwise handle the product on your own.

The asbestos inspection company can tell you whether or not the material needs remedial action. In some cases, it is safest to simply leave it alone. If they suggest abatement, do not try to encapsulate or remove the asbestos yourself. Instead, contact a licensed asbestos abatement company. They can perform the work in accordance with local laws and government safety requirements. This reduces the risk of asbestos exposure in your home.

Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.

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