Asbestos in homes is a matter of serious concern for many people who are living in old homes. In this article, we will discuss the various aspects of the use of this material in homes.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral substance. It consists of silicate material and is made up of tiny fibers. It can readily mix with any material, from cotton to cement. It is strong, durable, and is highly resistant to chemicals, high temperatures, and regular wear and tear. It is a bad conductor of both heat and electricity, and hence, an excellent insulating material. For all these unusual qualities, people started using asbestos in homes. It was in the period between 1940 and 1980 that using this material in homes became very popular.
Today, almost none of the building materials and products contain asbestos fibers. In fact, buildings that are built from 1988 onwards should ideally be free from this material. However, those that are built before 1984 are likely to have many products and insulating materials with some asbestos content. Some of the common uses of this material are as follows:
- Asbestos insulation in homes can be found in the walls and ceilings in order to make them sound and fireproof. Furnace ducts, boilers, and steam pipe columns are also insulated with the help of asbestos paper tapes.
- Corrugated cement roofing, shingles, and sidings are made up of cement mixed with asbestos fibers.
- Weatherboards manufactured before 1984 is the main source of asbestos in mobile homes.
- Vinyl/asphalt floor tiles and backing, and the adhesive used for their installation often contain asbestos fibers.
- Joint compounds, like caulk, putty, roof patching materials used to have asbestos fibers as well.
- Other uses of this material are artificial brick cladding, flexible boards used to build eave linings, bathroom linings, textured paint, door gaskets, soundproofing material, etc., have all consisted of asbestos.
Asbestos used in home building materials is not dangerous as long as they are not broken or damaged. It becomes hazardous when dust particles fall off from these materials and start floating around in the air. This is because the dust contains thousands of microscopic fibers which are so light that they easily get attached to any surface of the household items.
When there is exposure to this material for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to various diseases. In case it is inhaled, the fibers get stuck in the lungs and will stay trapped there for several years. Pleural plaque is one of the diseases where thick patches of scar tissue develop on the lining of the lungs. Asbestosis is another condition where normal breathing of the affected person gets impaired. If such people continue having exposure to asbestos, it may lead to lung cancer. Mesothelioma is another form of cancer that may affect such people.
Getting Rid of Asbestos
There is no way that you can identify for yourself whether your old home contains asbestos or not; you will have to hire a qualified professionals for this purpose. They will take a sample of the building material and analyze it in order to determine the presence of asbestos. If the test result is positive, then the temporary measure that can be taken is to seal the surface so that it does not pollute the indoor air.
Removal of asbestos from home is a complicated task and should be done by an experienced and licensed contractor. During the removal process, the work area needs to be isolated and the persons working there should protect themselves by wearing proper clothing, gloves, and a face mask. The surface should be dampened thoroughly with water so that the dust particles do not float in the air. Use of power tools, like grinding machine or drilling machine, should be avoided for breaking the materials, as they will release a lot of dust; instead, hand tools should be used for this purpose.
After the work of removal of asbestos is finished, it is important to dispose off the products safely. They should be wrapped up in a plastic bag and sealed properly. Even the clothing and other items that were contaminated with asbestos should be put in the bags. Label the bag as “Caution“. Contact the local Environment Protection Authority (EPA), and they will inform you about the designated area for disposal near your house. Throw away the bags in that area only and not anywhere around your house.