New construction homes built within the last couple of decades are unlikely to contain any asbestos. The same cannot be said for any home that was manufactured prior to 1980. For these homeowners, this substance is a potential threat to their family’s health and safety. Learning more about it will help you decide the best method for protecting your family.
What Is Asbestos?
This substance was commonly used in building materials from the 1940s through the 1970s because of its ability to act as insulation and as a fire retardant. At the time, no one fully understood the detrimental health effects that could arise from routine exposure.
Nonetheless, the substance had been used for centuries, and England listed it as harmful as early as 1902. The earliest known death from asbestosis occurred in 1902 when a factory worker died after about a year of spinning asbestos fibres into fabric.
This did not prevent many American manufacturers from making products that contained this substance and using those products to build the homes where people lived.
Why Is It Dangerous?
This substance consists of millions of tiny fibres. When it is disturbed, those tiny asbestos-fibres become airborne. They can easily be inhaled by people and animals in the immediate area. Those fibres enter the lungs, where they can cause considerable damage. Simple inflammation of the lung tissue turns into permanent scarring. Eventually, tumours may form. Lung cancer, mesothelioma and other illnesses have all been diagnosed as a result of exposure.
Is Asbestos In My Home?
If your home was built prior to 1980, then it is quite likely that this substance can be found in various building components. This material was once ubiquitous for manufacturers and construction companies with the result that your family could be surrounded by it without being aware of it. Although it is less likely, homes built after 1980 also may contain this substance since some construction companies were anxious to use existing stock that they had already purchased before the ban went into effect.Some common places where this substance may be found in homes include:
- Roof shingles
- Floor tiles
- Ceiling tiles
- Blown ceilings
- Insulation around boilers, pipes and ducts
- Joint compound used to bind pieces of sheetrock together
- Attic insulation
- Transite cement pipes that are used to move drinking water underground
- Fireplaces that have artificial ash and embers
- Textured paint
How Dangerous Is It?
The majority of related illnesses are diagnosed in individuals who routinely worked with products that contained this substance. Sometimes, their family members similarly became ill after being exposed to asbestos fibres on the hair and clothing of the worker.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that you are safe with having these building components in your house. If the components that contain this material are in good condition and are not disturbed, there is little reason to fear that your family is routinely inhaling harmful fibres. That changes if the component is not in good condition or if you want to make any kind of updates or structural changes to your home.
Accordingly, putting in a new heating and ventilation system, tearing down a wall or drilling into a ceiling all should be major causes for concern. Before completing any kind of renovations that might affect a building component that contains this substance, it is vital that you have a professional test of the material performed. If this harmful substance is discovered, then it must be dealt with by a professional for the sake of your family’s health.
Related Health Concerns
Exposure to asbestos causes illnesses such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestosis relates to inflammation of the lungs and related tissues, causing shortness of breath and coughing. Mesothelioma is the common name for a type of cancer that affects the membrane around the lungs. Although most people know of lung cancer because of its close relationship with smoking, this disease also is caused by exposure to this substance.
Any of these illnesses may prove to be fatal, even with prompt medical treatment. While many people who live in houses that contain this substance may not develop these serious diseases, they still may be subject to breathing difficulties and other problems that may be attributed to exposure. Anyone who is experiencing unusual symptoms may want to schedule an appointment with their doctor at the earliest opportunity.
What Can I Do?
If your home was built before 1980 or you suspect that certain components of your home may have been manufactured prior to that year, then it is extremely possible that they contain this potentially harmful substance. The only way to know for certain is to have a professional perform a test on the components. The professional will collect a small sample using all of the proper safety equipment. After lab testing is completed, you’ll know for certain whether or not you are dealing with this material.
If it is present in your house, then it is vital that you do not try to remove it yourself. This is a task that should always be left to a professional who has specialized training and necessary safety equipment. It is possible to remove this substance without putting your family at risk.
It may be that removing the contaminated components from your home is the best treatment method. However, other abatement methods are available. These include encapsulating or enclosing the material in question so that its fibres cannot become airborne. Consulting with an abatement professional will help you to determine which method is appropriate for your situation.
In Winnipeg, we have a company which is trained in asbestos removal. Please take a few minutes to listen to this audio:
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