At Home With Asbestos: Roofing
Part One in a Series About Asbestos in Your House
Ah, fall. For some it’s a time to undertake big projects on the home front. For others, it’s a time of transition and new beginnings. Did you relocate over the summer into new living quarters that could use some sprucing up? Have you been planning to devote these cooler months to remodeling an unfinished basement or converting that unused bedroom to a home office?
As thousands of people across the country embark on household projects big and small this season, we’re going to spend some time describing the residential building materials you may come across as you remodel your current home or move into new digs; products which just might contain asbestos. Starting from the top down, today we will discuss the roof over your head.
The popularity of asphalt roof shingles impregnated with asbestos fiber exploded when the National Board of Fire Underwriters campaigned in the 1920s to eliminate wood-shingled roofs. The new, asbestos-laden, asphalt-shingled tabs were easy for any homeowner to install and came in a variety of machine-cut shapes, sizes and colors. From the 1940s on, some asphalt-saturated roofing felt, which was laid beneath the shingles to provide additional insulation, fire resistance and protection from the elements, was reinforced with asbestos fiber.
In the late 1970s, when manufacturers finally succumbed to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency and the medical community about the cancer-causing dangers of asbestos, roofing companies began to make the switch to fiberglass shingles and asphalt roofing without asbestos. If you are planning to re-roof an older home before winter sets in, you should know that cutting, sawing or tearing out the old asphalt tab shingles may release dust into the air you breathe. Once airborne, asbestos fibers can be inhaled into the lungs, where they have the potential to cause severe lung diseases, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Moving into or living in a home covered with asbestos roofing is not inherently dangerous. If the roof is in good condition you can leave it alone. If your autumn projects this year include replacing your aging roof, contact your county’s health department or a certified roofer to determine the local regulations for testing and safe abatement. While it might be legal in your state for a homeowner to remove an asbestos roof himself, be sure to follow your municipality’s safety regulations to the letter if you choose to do so.
America was built on the premise of the “Do It Yourself” work ethic. We take pride in a well-kept home. Be safe about taking care of yours!