Asbestos in the Home
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was widely used in a variety of building components. The use of asbestos was fitted in nearly every home built before 1978 (asbestos was still used in construction after this date, just in smaller quantities). Generally, asbestos does not cause health problems unless its fibers are released into the air; so many homes built before the ’80s still contain asbestos. Evidence has proven that inhaling small asbestos fibers can lead to a variety of health issues, including a rare form of cancer, called mesothelioma, and asbestosis, a chronic and progressive disease of the lungs that causes severe pulmonary ailments. Asbestos exposure is also known to cause lung and gastrointestinal cancer as well.
Persons of any age can develop malignant mesothelioma, but most newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients are quite old. A person with a developing case of mesothelioma may live for decades without symptoms or other obvious signs of serious illness. While this may seem like a blessing to some, it is decidedly a curse, as the long latency period associated with the disease presents a serious challenge to doctors who wish to treat mesothelioma patients. By the time a person with mesothelioma begins to show symptoms of the disease, they might be in their 70s or 80s and already living with a disease in its latest stages of development. Mesothelioma treatment can include surgery, radiation therapy, anticancer drugs, chemotherapy, and other methods.
Where You May Find Asbestos
Asbestos was used in many types of building materials. Because it is fireproof and features insulating properties, asbestos was commonly used in ceiling and floor tiles, insulated electrical wiring, the HVAC system, wall and attic insulation, as well as wall boards. Products that contain asbestos are not easy to identify on sight, and it is generally understood that if your home was built prior to 1978, you should assume that it contains asbestos building materials to some degree.
If you are concerned that your home contains asbestos building materials, you can hire an experienced licensed contractor or home inspector for an assessment. Depending on the material, they may be able to tell by visual inspection whether a building product contains asbestos. This, however, is not a foolproof method. The only sure way to know if your home contains asbestos is to have professionals collect samples of the building materials. The samples are sent to a laboratory where testing will verify asbestos contamination.
Hire A Professional
There are a variety of professionals available for asbestos abatement in the home. Whether you want to remove the asbestos-containing materials completely, or choose to cover them in some way, a licensed professional offers safety and security, as removing asbestos on your own is exceptionally hazardous. Hiring a licensed contractor provides peace of mind and may protect you and your family from exposure to the deadly microscopic asbestos fibers. Professionals can perform air quality tests before, during, and after the remediation process—both in the contaminated part of the home as well as other areas. Air monitoring can be particularly reassuring if your family is living in the home during abatement.