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What To Do If You Discover Asbestos in Your Home

If you’re planning on purchasing or renovating an older home, you should be aware of the risk of asbestos – a toxic mineral found in many homes built before 1980. While it is possible that an older home that you’re purchasing or renovating may have asbestos, there are ways to deal with this common problem with the right knowledge and professional help along the way. Read on for common questions surrounding asbestos and steps you can take to ensure it doesn’t pose a risk to your family’s health and safety.    

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made up of fibers that are resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion. Because of these properties, asbestos was commonly added to cloth, paper, cement and plastic to create stronger building materials and to produce things like insulation. However, during the 1970’s and ‘80s it was discovered that asbestos can cause illnesses such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other cancers. 

How is asbestos discovered in the home?

It is possible that a home inspector can identify specific building materials (especially in older homes) that are commonly known to hold asbestos, such as vinyl floor tiles, coatings on hot water and steam pipes, and walls and floors around wood burning stoves. While a home inspector may spot these materials, the only way to truly know if asbestos exists is to have a sample collected and tested by a qualified professional. 

What are the health effects of asbestos?

The greatest danger that asbestos poses is when a person inhales microscopic amounts of asbestos material. Even in small amounts, asbestos can cause tears in lung tissue and lead to various forms of cancer, specifically mesothelioma – a type of cancer that forms in the thin layer of tissue (mesothelium) that covers the majority of your internal organs. Many construction workers who renovated or built homes prior to the 1980s were exposed to asbestos and developed illnesses. However, new guidelines and restrictions on asbestos materials during the 1990s helped to decrease the amount of such cases. 

What should I do if there’s asbestos in my home?

The most important thing is what you DON’T do: don’t move anything or disturb the area if there’s been asbestos detected there. This can cause asbestos to be released into the air and then inhaled by anyone in the home.  When asbestos is discovered in your home, the EPA advises that you contact a certified asbestos professional if your home has damaged building materials or if you’re planning to remodel your home. 

In cases other than damaged building materials or renovations, the best course of action is to limit contact with the area and not disturb it. For example, if you have old vinyl flooring that contains asbestos material, do not pull up the tiles. Generally, asbestos-containing materials that are in good condition and not disturbed will not release fibers into the air. Looking to get your home inspected to ensure the health and safety of your family? Call South Sound Inspections today to schedule a visit.

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