Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber. A special type of microscope can positively identify the substance. Asbestos additives are
made from several types of fibers that were once used for hundreds of applications. Asbestos is notable for its strength, flexibility,
heat insulation and flame resistance.
Thousands of Americans were exposed to asbestos in shipyards, factories, auto repair shops and construction sites before a
1970s government ban on the substance. Research has revealed that asbestos exposure increases the risk of serious respiratory
diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the risk of developing cancer increases with the number of asbestos
fibers inhaled. Exposure to intact asbestos materials do not normally cause problems. However, if an asbestos-containing product
is damaged or disturbed, it releases toxic particles into the air. Breathing them is a health hazard.
Asbestos in the Home
Due to the growing awareness of asbestos hazards and related health concerns, many people know of the risks to factory
workers, auto mechanics, construction workers and military veterans. However, many homeowners are ignorant of the potential
dangers inside their homes.
While men are more likely to develop mesothelioma due to occupational asbestos exposure, more women are getting sick as the
result of do-it-yourself home renovations. Old homes, in particular, pose a danger to homeowners since many homes still contain
products that were strengthened with asbestos.
Throughout the twentieth century, residential and commercial buildings contained asbestos products. Insulation, vinyl floor tiles,
house sidings, roof shingles and many other building materials contained asbestos additives. Home renovators today must be
extra vigilant when identifying and handling these materials.
Asbestos Prevention Guidelines
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) is a national voice for victims of asbestos-related health conditions. They
recommend that homeowners consult an asbestos professional or the EPA for information about testing, removal and disposal.
To prevent exposure, homeowners should adhere to certain guidelines that minimize the risk of airborne asbestos fibers. They
should never remove or damage old asbestos, even for a sample. Incorrect sampling does more harm than good.
Scraping, sanding, sawing, cutting and drilling disturbs asbestos and should be avoided. Homeowners should not use abrasive
brushes and pads to strip other materials from asbestos. Additionally, no one should dust, sweep or vacuum asbestos-containing
Choosing an Asbestos Contractor
People who plan to renovate an old home should consult an asbestos contractor if they suspect the home contains toxic materials.
Some contractors remove asbestos incorrectly, so homeowners should verify a government license before hiring a contractor.
To further ensure safe work, homeowners can require references and request procedures in writing. A certified asbestos
consultant can review the procedures and oversee the contractor’s work. State and local health officials and EPA asbestos
coordinators can provide more information regarding asbestos identification, control and removal.