Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that, when crushed, forms durable, lightweight fibers that are resistant to heat and fire, possess sound-deadening qualities, and are incredibly strong for their size. Those qualities made asbestos an ideal substance to incorporate into home construction products – and it was, throughout most of the last century.
If you live in a home or apartment that was constructed before 1980, there may be asbestos fibers lurking in some of the products in or on your floors, walls or ceilings, in your attic or basement, and perhaps on your roof or the home’s exterior. Throughout the twentieth century, asbestos fibers were incorporated into numerous home building and remodeling products, such as plasters and textured paints, sheetrock-mud, floor tile, sheet flooring, roofing felt, shingles and exterior siding.
Although asbestos was long prized for its low cost and wide availability, exposure to asbestos fibers is known to cause a rare and aggressive cancer known as malignant mesothelioma. Several additional forms of cancer, such as colorectal cancer and lung cancer, and lung diseases such as asbestosis, can also be caused by asbestos. This happens when the microscopic particles of asbestos are inhaled or ingested into the body and become lodged in the lungs and other internal organs.
Where Is Asbestos Found in Homes?
Chances are, if you are living in a house or apartment that was constructed between 1940 and 1980, one or more of the following products used in the interior of your home is likely to contain asbestos:
If your home was constructed before 1980 and your floors are covered with 9-inch by 9-inch vinyl or asphalt tile, it is likely that your tile contains asbestos fibers. Asbestos was added to floor tile as a binding agent. The fiber also added fireproof and soundproof qualities. Even the black glue used to stick that tile to the subfloor may have contained asbestos. Some brands of 12-inch by 12-inch asphalt tile also contained asbestos, and so did some vinyl tile, sheet linoleum and sheet vinyl.
If your home was built after the 1930s, your interior walls are probably at least partially constructed of drywall, which is sold in 4-foot by 8-foot panels. In single-family dwellings, these gypsum boards (also called sheetrock) did not usually include asbestos fiber. However, the heavier, insulated cement boards used as firewalls in apartment buildings and commercial construction often did contain asbestos. Either way, once they were installed, much of the sheetrock mud, also known as wall-joint compound, which covered seams between sheets of drywall or cement boards to create a smooth surface, did contain asbestos fiber.
Interior plasters and textured wall paints frequently were made with chrysotile, amphibole and other asbestos fibers, starting in the 1920s, primarily for sound deadening, fire resistance and strength. These thickly granulated coatings covered a host of wall imperfections and were often troweled or combed into embellished swirls and other patterns. If you live in a home constructed before 1980, you should assume that any textured coatings on your walls or ceilings contain asbestos.
In addition to paints and plasters, some interior wallboards also contained asbestos. Decorative paneling made to look like grained wood or clay bricks was very popular in family rooms constructed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. These decorative panels were made with asbestos fiber because it offered strength, soundproofing and fire resistance.
Starting in the 1950s, paint was mixed with asbestos and wood fiber or vermiculite to create a “bumpy” finish on the ceilings of household kitchens, hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms. Asbestos fiber was used as a “filler” component because it increased the “bumpiness” of the texture and acted as a binding agent, making the thickened paint easier to spread. Incorporating asbestos into textured paint also offered a certain degree of soundproofing between floors.
This type of ceiling became very popular because it was inexpensive and easy to apply. Additionally, “popcorn” ceilings, as they were popularly known, readily covered defects in ceiling construction, as well as poor workmanship, stains and structural cracks. The use of asbestos in textured ceiling paints was so common that if your home was constructed before 1985, you should assume that bumpy ceiling contains asbestos.
Perforated ceiling tile also contained asbestos. These panels typically measured 2’ by 2’ or 2’ by 4’ and were white or beige in color. They were also known as acoustic ceilings. In homes, these lightweight tiles were often strewn with decorative pinhole markings. The tiles were sometimes glued or nailed directly to ceiling framework. In kitchens and basements, the tiles were frequently suspended from the ceiling in a lightweight metal or plastic framework to hide ductwork and pipes. These were known as drop ceilings. In homes, apartments and commercial buildings, drop ceilings using perforated asbestos tiles were common until at least 1980.
Beginning in the 1940s, asbestos cement boards could be purchased anywhere in the United States for use on the exteriors of homes, apartment buildings, schools, hospitals and office complexes. A number of manufacturers touted their asbestos siding as superior to anything else on the market due to its superior strength, fire protection and resistance to wood-destroying insects. Asbestos siding was very popular and came in a wide variety of decorative patterns, from woodgrain to scalloping, and in many colors.
Cement roof shingles made with asbestos were manufactured in the U.S. from 1910 well into the 1980s. Corrugated asbestos roofing and asphalt-asbestos roof shingles were also extremely popular throughout the last half of the twentieth century. In addition, the tar paper or felt installed between the roof substrate and the shingles was also composed of asbestos fiber. If you live in a home built in the 1900s that still has its original asphalt-shingled roof, it’s worth considering that your rooftop materials contain asbestos.
Roof cement also contained dangerous asbestos fibers. Also known as plastic cement, tile mastic, cutback adhesive and duct sealant, the sticky, gooey tar, which could be purchased in cans or drums and was used to seal chimney flashing, nail holes and pipe vent protrusions, contained asphalt binders, with substantial amounts of chrysotile asbestos fiber, well into the 1980s. In some cases, the amount of asbestos, which was used as a filler and insulator, was 50 to 60 percent. Plastic cement was typically sold in five-gallon cans and buckets for home use, and eventually became available in tan and even silver color, where it enjoyed popularity as a mobile-home roof coating. The lighter colors also offered superior insulation by reflecting the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them.
The tar-like consistency of plastic cement, which hardens once exposed to air, lent itself well to many uses in and around the home. In addition to roofing sealant and asphalt shingle adhesive, asbestos-containing plastic cement was popular as a floor-tile adhesive. It served also as a sealant for ductwork, an automotive windshield sealer and as a moisture barrier for basements and foundations.
Exposure to asbestos occurs when homeowners seek to chisel away at old roof tar or floor-tile glue in order to replace it with something new. Grinding, sanding or using a tile saw to cut asphalt or vinyl tile or underlayment coated with asphalt-asbestos mastic or cutback adhesive causes fine dust and debris laden with toxic asbestos fibers to swirl into the air, exposing anyone in the vicinity.
Vermiculite was first identified in a mine near Libby, Montana, in 1881. In 1919, Dr. Edward Alley discovered that vermiculite expanded (popped like popcorn) when heated. Its expansion created pockets of air that made the material suitable for use as insulation. Unfortunately, asbestos, an ore similar in composition to vermiculite, was frequently found in the same mines as vermiculite. In the Libby mine, the asbestos ore was a particularly dangerous type known as Amphibole asbestos or Tremolite. Tremolite asbestos fibers are generally longer and break apart more easily than other asbestos fibers. They are also believed to be more toxic. The veins of this toxic and extremely friable form of asbestos contaminated most, if not all, of the vermiculite taken from the Libby mine. It is estimated that the Libby mine was the source for over 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. from 1923 to 1990, so if you live in a home with attic insulation that was blown in before 1995, you must consider that the wormlike pellets in your attic contain asbestos fiber.
When Was Asbestos Used in Homes?
Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the toxic, fibrous mineral asbestos could be found in numerous home construction products that were available to consumers from almost any catalog company, home goods seller or hardware store. Products as diverse as floor and ceiling tile, plaster and wall-joint compound, ironing board pads and oven mitts, roof-flashing sealant, shingles, and exterior siding, all contained asbestos and were widely sold throughout the United States.
A History of Asbestos in Home Construction Products
The use of the hazardous mineral asbestos in home goods has a long and diverse history. Ludwig Hatschek first patented asbestos-cement panels in Germany in 1900. His new construction boards soon enjoyed widespread popularity, chiefly because the panels, made with lightweight asbestos fiber instead of heavy sand and gravel, weighed only a fifth of what traditional concrete panels weighed. Also, the new construction boards did not need to be nearly as thick to afford the same tensile strength and fire-resistant properties.
By 1910, Hatschek’s Eternit brand asbestos cement roof tiles were being manufactured in the United States, beginning a worldwide explosion of asbestos cement products by many manufacturers which continued unabated into the early 1980s, including water and sewer piping, corrugated roofing, exterior siding, and interior wall, floor and ceiling panels. Soon building codes in municipalities throughout the United States mandated the use of asbestos cement boards in apartment buildings and office complexes to reduce the danger of fire spreading from one unit to another and from one floor to the next.
In fact, the launch in 1916 of a campaign by the National Board of Fire Underwriters to eliminate wood shingled roofs in favor of asbestos tiles led to a National Building Code regulation requiring asbestos roofing in all federally financed homes, such as those underwritten by the Veterans Administration, starting in 1943, a directive that remained in force until 1985.
By the outbreak of World War II, asbestos was widely used in building materials both military and domestic. The vast number and variety of products manufactured with asbestos components eventually exceeded anyone’s expectations. Indeed, at the height of asbestos production in the 1960s, more than 3,000 different types of commercially available products incorporated asbestos fibers to some degree.
Actions to protect the public from exposure to dangerous asbestos fibers began in 1973, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first banned asbestos-containing materials that were sprayed onto surfaces, such as spray-on fireproofing and insulation. Unfortunately, manufacturers continued to incorporate asbestos into home building products for many years after that.
When Was Asbestos Banned in Homes?
You might be surprised to learn that even as other countries have moved to ban all asbestos-containing products, asbestos is not banned outright in the United States. Some consumer products still legally contain asbestos fiber.
In 1975, the EPA banned installation of asbestos pipe insulation and asbestos block insulation on facility components, such as school and hospital boilers and home hot-water tanks, if the materials were capable of shedding fibers once they were dry (which most asbestos products were).
In 1977, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of asbestos in wall patching compounds and artificial fireplace embers. Imitation fireplace logs were a very popular home purchase in the 1960s and 1970s. Most fireplace logs were made of concrete. They sat on a tray of sand or imitation embers, through which the flames emerged from a gas line hidden below. The imitation embers were made of asbestos so they wouldn’t burn. Instead, they glowed red once heated by the flames for a pleasing and romantic effect. Yet, over time, those artificial embers deteriorated, releasing microscopic particles of toxic asbestos fiber into the home every time the logs were lit.
In 1978 the EPA banned all sprayable asbestos products not previously banned by earlier regulation. This included spray-on “popcorn” ceilings and textured wall coatings. However, manufacturers were allowed to sell off their existing inventories of these dangerous asbestos products until supplies were exhausted. There was no recall, and most manufacturers and retailers did not stop selling the toxic goods right away. Hardware and home improvement stores across the country continued to offer these deadly products for sale, sometimes for years after the bans went into effect.
In 1989, the EPA issued a rule under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA) banning most asbestos products in the United States. However, the rule was overturned in 1991 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, after asbestos industry lobbyists successfully argued that there was doubt about its deadliness.
Even without an outright ban on asbestos products in the United States, product liability lawsuits eventually led U.S. manufacturers significantly reduce the use of asbestos in their goods. Additionally, a number of products containing asbestos were outlawed under other federal injunctions, including corrugated paper, rollboard and flooring felt.
Asbestos Exposure in the Home
The reality is that no matter where you live, your older home or apartment might have been constructed before asbestos was banned in most building products. It is also possible that your residence was constructed or remodeled with asbestos containing products that continued to be stocked in hardware stores after the federal asbestos bans took effect but before store supplies of asbestos-containing products ran out. That is why it is so important to be sure the floor tile, textured ceilings and other components in your older home are asbestos-free before you try to remove them yourself.
In many cases, leaving asbestos-containing floor tile or “popcorn” ceiling texture or plastered or sheet-rocked walls undisturbed in your home will have few harmful effects. It is the disturbing of asbestos materials that causes microscopic asbestos fibers to dislodge from the product and float through the air, sometimes for weeks, where they can be inhaled or ingested by you or your loved ones. So long as you do not cut through or drill into sheetrock walls, scrape off old ceiling texture, or pry up ancient nine-inch by nine-inch floor tile, there isn’t really any way for the asbestos fibers to become airborne.
If, however, you have rambunctious children who may inadvertently knock balls, darts or other toys against that textured ceiling, or if you plan to remodel an older home and remove or disturb potentially asbestos-containing floors, walls, ceilings, attics, exterior siding or roof shingles, then it is important to remember that no amount of asbestos is safe to inhale or ingest and every kind of asbestos can cause severe disease and death.
Asbestos Health Risks
For many years before its dangerous health effects were discovered, asbestos was incorporated into numerous home construction products for its strength and ability to deaden sound and resist fire and wood-eating pests. Individual asbestos fibers are released into the air from these products when they are disturbed, which puts home and apartment occupants at risk of exposure if old asbestos materials are tampered with, such as to chip away at them, scrape them off, or drill through them.
Exposure to asbestos can cause irreversible lung damage, known as asbestosis. It can also lead to cancers of the lung, larynx, colon and other organs, and can cause a rare but aggressive malignancy known as mesothelioma that swiftly kills its victims. Exposure to asbestos occurs when the microscopic airborne fibers of the mineral asbestos are inhaled through the mouth or nose. They can also be swallowed.
Each visible asbestos fiber is composed of millions of microscopic fibrils which are so small they cannot be seen with the naked eye. When a product containing asbestos fiber is crushed, scraped, sawed or drilled through, microscopic asbestos fibrils are released into the air. Because they are so light, the invisible fibrils remain airborne a long time, sometimes for weeks, increasing the likelihood that you might breathe them or ingest them if you are anywhere nearby.
Exposure to asbestos can occur throughout your home or apartment, such as when you attempt to remove or repair old asbestos flooring, roofing, ceiling tiles or ceiling texture, wall plaster, or exterior siding. The overall scientific consensus is that asbestos is a proven human carcinogen and that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Amazingly, the import and sale of asbestos is not banned in the United States, although its use is restricted. Beginning with the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970, a series of laws and regulations were enacted to constrain the use of asbestos at the federal level. Although these measures greatly reduced the amount of asbestos imported and incorporated into household products and building materials, some asbestos-containing products remain legal for consumer purchase. In addition, older buildings and homes may contain asbestos-containing construction and insulation materials installed long ago, such as pipe and boiler insulation in basements, vermiculite insulation in attics, and old floor and ceiling tile in living spaces.
How to Tell If Your Home Has Asbestos
If you are living in a home or apartment building that was constructed before 1980, there is a surprisingly strong chance that one or more elements in your home are likely to contain hazardous asbestos fibers. These components might be found on the outside, such as in roofing or siding, or on the inside, such as in floor and ceiling tile, sheetrock joint compound, plaster, and textured paints.
It is important to find out if certain components of your dwelling contain asbestos before you attempt to do any remodeling or drill into old walls, ceiling texture or floor tile. When these items deteriorate or are disturbed, they release microscopic asbestos fibers which, when inhaled or ingested, can cause serious health issues, including cancer.
Here are some ways to tell if there is asbestos in your home:
Floor tile measuring in 9” by 9” square is almost certain to contain asbestos, so that size tile should be treated with the utmost caution. Almost all asphalt 9” by 9” floor tile contained asbestos and most 9” by 9” vinyl floor tile did, too. Asbestos was added to floor tile as a binding agent and for strength. Asbestos fibers were also incorporated into some 12” by 12” vinyl floor tile, and even some sheet vinyl and sheet linoleum, so it is wise to get any old tile or sheet flooring checked by a certified asbestos abatement professional before ripping it out or even nailing into it to cover it with new flooring.
Ceiling tile in an older home that appears fibrous and contains numerous decorative pinhole perforations is likely to contain asbestos. Known as acoustic ceiling tile, the lightweight fibrous panels were made with asbestos fibers to enhance their sound-deadening qualities. Any perforated acoustic tile in the ceiling of a home constructed before 1980 is likely to contain asbestos and should not be broken apart when removed.
Textured walls and ceilings were very common in homes built throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It was asbestos fiber, along with paper pulp and wood fiber, that gave these coverings their bumpy, “popcorn” quality. Plaster also contained asbestos, as the fibrous mineral provided important binding qualities to paint, as well as a pleasing thickness that could be swirled and combed into decorative patterns. Any thickly textured or plastered wall or ceiling in a home or apartment constructed before 1980 should be considered to be asbestos-containing.
Wall-joint compound has been used to fill nail holes and fuse the seams between 4’ by 8’ sheets of drywall in home construction since the 1940s. Up until the early 1980s, that sheetrock mud typically contained asbestos fibers, which made the compound stronger and more durable. If your home was built before 1985, do not tear out old sheetrock walls or otherwise disturb them before having the joint compound in the seams tested for the presence of asbestos.
Decorative wall paneling sometimes contained asbestos, which added strength, visual appeal and sound-deadening qualities to older walls. Popular in family rooms and dens and on walls with a fireplace, decorative wall paneling that contained asbestos fibers sometimes sported a brick pattern and also came in assorted wood grains.
Siding on an older home can be assumed to contain asbestos if it is not made of wood, aluminum or vinyl and has a decorative woodgrain pattern etched into what appears to be lightweight cement sheets. If your home is covered with such siding, and was constructed before 1970, there is a good chance that the siding on your house is made of asbestos cement boards or asbestos wood-look cement shingles.
Roofing that contains asbestos was most commonly composed of asphalt asbestos shingles. If your roof was last replaced before 1985 and appears to be covered with asphalt shingle tabs, those shingles, as well as the roofing felt beneath them and the tar used to seal vent protrusions and chimney flashing, is likely to contain dangerous asbestos fibers.
Attic insulation that is lightweight, puffy and pellet-like is likely to be vermiculite insulation. If your blown-in insulation has been in the attic since the 1970s, it is probably composed of vermiculite. Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral which, until 1990, was mined from the same ore deposits as the mineral asbestos. Therefore, most vermiculite contains deadly asbestos fibers. When subjected to heat, vermiculite has the unusual property of expanding like popcorn. That’s why it was found to be such an ideal, lightweight filler in concrete blocks and home attic insulation. Nevertheless, the asbestos fibers intermingled with that vermiculite can be deadly. Despite the fact that this puffy insulation is confined to your attic, the microscopic fibrils that make up asbestos fibers are so tiny that they can easily sift down through seams in ceilings and ductwork protrusions into your living spaces.
Piping and ductwork in homes built before 1980 were likely to be wrapped in asbestos insulation. This is especially true in parts of the country where winters are brutally cold or summers are unbearably hot. One of the most common places to find asbestos in a home is in the whitish, cloth-like wrapping around piping or ductwork in the basement or attic. In addition to offering excellent heat and cold preservation within ductwork and pipes, asbestos wrapping also prevented condensation on the outside of ductwork and piping, making its use very popular throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. When this pipe-wrapping deteriorates with age, however, the fabric becomes frayed and torn. This releases microscopic asbestos fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested.
In some cases, leaving asbestos-containing floor tile or “popcorn” ceiling texture or plastered or sheet-rocked walls undisturbed in your home will have few harmful effects. It is the disturbing of asbestos materials that causes microscopic asbestos fibers to dislodge from the product and float through the air, where they can be inhaled or ingested by you or your loved ones. But some asbestos containing products, such as blown-in attic insulation, can present a hazard just by being there, and any asbestos-containing home product can release deadly fibers when disturbed. Never cut through or drill into sheetrock walls, scrape off old ceiling texture, or pry up ancient nine-inch by nine-inch floor tile. Instead, call a certified asbestos abatement professional to determine how to best remove or encapsulate the danger.
How to Test for Asbestos in Your Home
If you suspect that any components in your home are old enough to contain asbestos, there are steps you can take to determine if toxic asbestos fibers really are lurking in your home’s materials. In the past, contacting a certified asbestos abatement professional was the only way to find out if there was asbestos in your home.
More recently, at-home testing kits have been made available to the public in some states. While these tests are not sold in states where it is against the law to use them, they are less expensive than hiring a professional to do the testing where they are available.
Most at-home test kits require that you pay a fee (in addition to the cost of the kit itself) to mail a sample of the material you are testing to a laboratory. Waiting for the result from a lab can take three weeks or more, so you won’t get results right away.
Here are some ways to test for asbestos in your home:
Do-It-Yourself Asbestos Testing Kits: If it is legal in your state and if you live in a single family dwelling, not an attached home or “row-house” or apartment building, you might consider using an asbestos home testing kit to check for the presence of asbestos fibers in certain components of your home. You can purchase an asbestos test kit at most home improvement stores, if the kits (and home testing) are legal in the state where you live. However, do-it-yourself asbestos testing is not recommended. There are just too many risks associated with collecting a sample that requires a level of scientific “clean-room” preparation and cleanup well beyond even the most fastidious occupant’s capabilities.
Professional asbestos testing: In states where do-it-yourself home-testing is not allowed, or if you live in an attached row house or apartment, or if you simply do not feel qualified to ensure that you can take the necessary precautions to collect a suspected asbestos sample safely, then by far the best choice is to enlist the help of a certified asbestos professional.
The first step is to check with your municipality’s health department or a certified building expert to determine the local regulations for testing and safe abatement in your area. Most jurisdictions can provide you with a list of certified and accredited asbestos companies. Experts recommend using an asbestos testing laboratory or an environmental consultant certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), neither of whom will be financially motivated to offer pricey options if asbestos is determined to be present.
The authorized asbestos inspector you hired will then guide you as to next steps, and alert you to what the asbestos-abatement regulations are in your area.
What to Do When Asbestos Is Found In Your Home
So what happens if asbestos is found to be lurking in your home? Should you panic? No. Walking on asbestos floor tile is not necessarily harmful. Interior rooms constructed of sheetrock joined together by asbestos-containing wall-joint compound is no cause for undue alarm. Living in a home with popcorn ceilings is not necessarily dangerous.
Danger occurs when asbestos fibers are disturbed and released into the air — where they can be inhaled. So don’t drag the refrigerator (or anything else) across a floor covered in asbestos tile. Don’t scrape off that textured ceiling material, rip up old floor tile or demolish an old sheetrock wall without first consulting a certified asbestos abatement company to determine if it contains asbestos. If it does, have them remove or encapsulate it for you. In some jurisdictions, you may be permitted to carefully seal or cover asbestos-containing materials on your own to make certain the toxic fibers cannot be released.
If old floor tile, sheet rock walls or textured ceilings in your home are crumbling or must be removed, you can contact your local health department to determine the local regulations for its testing and safe abatement. Do not scrape or remove any suspected asbestos material yourself!
How to Get Rid of Asbestos in Your Home
Due to the significant health risks created by releasing carcinogenic asbestos fibers into the air, experts recommend that any work with or around asbestos materials be performed by a professional contractor or licensed asbestos abatement expert. The building codes in your jurisdiction will determine what your abatement or encapsulation options are. Your local municipality will also be able to provide a list of certified experts who can test your materials or insulation to see if it contains asbestos.
You have three options to choose from once the presence of asbestos in your home has been identified.
The greatest health risk comes when asbestos-containing material is disturbed, so removing asbestos-containing components in your home when they are in good condition may be more hazardous than leaving them alone. Never sand, saw, hammer, pry, drill or cut asbestos material. Disturbing asbestos in any way releases microscopic fibers into the air where they can easily be inhaled or ingested.
If the asbestos material in your home is not crumbling or fraying, depending on the laws in your state, you might be able to leave it alone. When asbestos is not disturbed, it is unlikely to pose a risk. Walking across an asbestos tile floor that is in excellent condition, for instance, won’t cause harm.
However, it will be important to avoid areas where some asbestos-containing materials are located, such as basements or attics, in order to prevent potential damage from bumping into it. Exterior siding and roofing can remain, as long as it is not deteriorating and nothing bumps, scrapes or penetrates it. Sheetrock walls sealed with asbestos-containing joint compound can stay in place, so long as you don’t hang so much as a picture on the wall where joint compound has been applied. Textured paint, plaster, popcorn ceilings and acoustic ceiling tile can all stay put, as long as you are diligent about not ever touching, scraping or bumping them. This may be especially difficult if there are children in the home.
The far better plan, if you are permitted by law to leave asbestos in place, is to seal off the asbestos, a process known as encapsulation. There are two types of encapsulation: a paint-like material that is coated over the asbestos-containing material, and a self-setting cement tape that is wetted, applied and then hardens like a cast. An added benefit to encapsulation is that it helps prevent the distribution of asbestos fibers if you ever decide to remove the material completely. A professional abatement contractor will be able to remove the material, securely sealed inside its painted or taped coating.
Encapsulating works best for asbestos-wrapped piping or ductwork. But even when encapsulated, you must beware: if your piping or ductwork is in a livable space, such as a finished attic, basement or garage, where it might be bumped by someone moving a chair, ladder or other heavy object, there is a chance that the asbestos could be disturbed even if it has been sealed.
If asbestos-containing material, such as acoustic ceiling tile, a textured wall or ceiling, or asbestos-wrapped ductwork or piping is in an area where activities will take place, you can take an additional step to protect you and your family from exposure. You can lessen the opportunity for inadvertent disturbance and deterioration by building a drywall or metal “box” around piping or ductwork, or erect a new “false” wall or ceiling in front of an asbestos-covered one, effectively preventing anyone from coming in contact with the surface containing asbestos fibers.
Significant health risks are created by releasing carcinogenic asbestos fibers into the air, so experts recommend that any work with or around asbestos materials be performed by a certified asbestos contractor or licensed asbestos abatement expert. The building codes in your jurisdiction will determine what your abatement or encapsulation options are. Your local municipality may also be able to provide a list of certified experts who can test any suspected material in your home to see if it contains asbestos.
What to Do After Asbestos Removal
So now you’ve successfully removed, encapsulated or blocked off any asbestos materials that were identified in your home. Can you breathe easy? Here are some steps to consider once asbestos abatement is complete:
Check for airborne particulate matter
If any asbestos in your home was deteriorating at the time it was removed, and even if it wasn’t and you just want to be on the safe side, you might want to consider having a certified asbestos testing professional come in with a portable, laser-based asbestos detector to measure the air in your home for the presence of lingering asbestos dust. Should microscopic asbestos fibers be detected, a certified asbestos abatement service can counsel you how best to clean your air to rid your home of the invisible fibers.
Monitor your health
Sturdy, virtually indestructible asbestos fibers, once taken in through breath or swallowed, cannot easily be broken down, destroyed or removed by the body’s natural defenses. When asbestos is inhaled or ingested, its needle-like points burrow deep into the linings of the lungs and other internal organs, where they can fester for years, decades even, and can eventually lead to deadly diseases such as mesothelioma. While mesothelioma is a particularly cruel cancer, killing its victims an average of ten months after diagnosis, it is relatively rare. Other diseases can also be caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, including pleural plaques in the lungs, diffuse (meaning widespread) pleural thickening of the lungs, asbestosis, and carcinomas of the lung, larynx, esophagus and colon.
Unlike exposure to most toxins, exposure to asbestos fibers can take decades to develop into disease. The invisible fibers give no indication of their danger when inhaled like other toxins might. The symptoms from having inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers, such as shortness of breath or abdominal pain, do not present themselves for many years, sometimes not for decades. This is called a latency period.
If you built a home or remodeled a home before 1980 that might have contained asbestos, medical experts say you should monitor your health carefully for symptoms of asbestos disease. Anyone who develops symptoms of asbestosis, such as shortness of breath or pain with breathing, should see a family physician or lung disease specialist. A doctor should be notified if someone who has been diagnosed with asbestosis coughs up blood, loses weight without trying to, is short of breath, has chest pain, develops a sudden fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or develops unfamiliar, unexplained symptoms.
Be aware that you might be misdiagnosed and treated for other maladies such as pneumonia, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Therefore, the most important thing you can do for your well-being is to make sure your healthcare professional is aware of your exposure to asbestos and request that your health be monitored for symptoms of asbestos disease.
Consider filing a lawsuit
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States from exposure to asbestos. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer and built or remodeled a home with asbestos products before 1980, you might be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the asbestos products you purchased to do the work.
Mesothelioma cancer is only caused by exposure to asbestos. There is no cure. Asbestos companies, distributors and manufacturers may all be responsible for exposing you to asbestos and causing your incurable cancer. Taking legal action means you have the chance to hold them accountable, which may also stabilize your family’s financial situation if you are unable to work or your medical bills mount up.
Why Choose Baron & Budd Over Other Mesothelioma Law Firms?
Baron & Budd’s asbestos litigation lawyers were among the first in the country to take on an asbestos-related case, more than 45 years ago, and our dedication to helping mesothelioma victims has only increased over the years. Today Baron & Budd’s team of dedicated mesothelioma lawyers works across the nation, winning many precedent-setting cases and handling many mesothelioma claims. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma, you are likely entitled to compensation from those responsible. Make sure you have the best mesothelioma attorneys on your side throughout the legal process.
Asbestos litigation has attracted many lawyers who have never set foot in a courtroom. Unlike Baron & Budd, these types of “marketing” law firms merely advertise for cases and then send them to the highest bidder for handling. When you hire Baron & Budd, a compassionate mesothelioma lawyer from our firm will be handling your case who has decades of experience and substantial resources at his or her disposal.
Don’t wait once you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos disease
Once you have received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, don’t wait to file a lawsuit. Although the restriction differs from state to state, by law there is a limited time period to file a lawsuit in every state once you have been diagnosed with asbestos disease. If you do not file your lawsuit within this time period, you forever lose the right to seek compensation for your mesothelioma cancer. From the time your doctor first diagnoses your mesothelioma, most states allow only one to three years to file a mesothelioma lawsuit. This is called the Statute of Limitations.
The relative rarity of the disease makes receiving a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma all the more devastating. Documenting how you were exposed to asbestos is a critical first step in determining whether you can file suit against the asbestos manufacturers who failed to warn you about its deadliness. It is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Baron & Budd can help. Contact us online or call us at 855-280-7664 to learn more about your legal options.