Eighty percent of homes in the United States built before 1980 are said to have asbestos fibers present. Asbestos is a group of six naturally-occurring mineral fibers and was initially thought to be a great building material due to its chemical-resistant and fire-resistant properties. However, the mineral has been known to cause a number of illnesses, including different types of cancer and asbestosis. When purchasing a home, being mindful of asbestos can mitigate health implications and prevent the high cost of abatement.

 

Where is Asbestos in the Home?

 

Prior to being linked to several diseases, including mesothelioma, the toxic mineral was a popular choice used in millions of American homes during the mid-20th century. The government began instituting restrictions in the 1970s, but prior to  that asbestos was used for insulation, soundproofing, and fireproofing. It can still be found in those capacities today. The toxin was also often mixed with cement, making it harder to identify.

 

Basement

Asbestos could be lurking in the basements of older homes in the following places:

 

●          Water heaters

●          Coal stoves

●          Wood burning stoves

●          Furnaces

●          Cement bases

●          Pipe insulation

●          HVAC duct and ventilation insulation

 

Main Home

It can be difficult to spot asbestos with the naked eye, but the mineral was used throughout the home in products and materials like these:

 

●          Old caulking

●          Flooring

●          Ceiling tiles

●          Plaster

●          Paint

●          Linoleum tiles

●          Light fixtures

●          Window glazes and putties

 

Outside the House

Your home's exterior can also harbor asbestos-containing materials, including:

 

●          Shingles

●          House siding

●          Roof tiles

●          Fiberboards

●          Insulation

 

It’s important to note that while asbestos may not be present in every one of these products, it’s still best to be mindful of the possibility when you’re considering purchasing a home or planning a renovation project.

 

Dealing with Asbestos

 

Knowing when your house was built should give you an idea of whether or not your home is affected by asbestos. If your house was built before the 1980s but was significantly remodeled since then, your chances of dealing with asbestos decrease. However, if you suspect the toxic mineral is in your home, these three simple rules will prevent you from being exposed.

 

  1. Do Not Disturb It - Although asbestos-containing materials, known as ACMs, are considered safe when left alone and fully intact, they may release fibers when they become damaged. Don't ever attempt to remove ACMs on your own because you can accidentally expose yourself or others to the toxic fibers.

 

  1. Test It - If you decide to go ahead with a home renovation project involving potential damage to older materials or the foundation, it’s important to contact a licensed asbestos inspector to test the area first.

 

  1. Have It Removed - If the area tests positive for asbestos, find and hire a qualified asbestos abatement contractor to have it removed safely and properly disposed.

 

Misconceptions Regarding Asbestos

 

Now that you know where you can find asbestos and how to properly take care of removing the toxin, here are a few other common misconceptions about the mineral and the effects it can have on your health.

 

 

 

  1. Asbestos only impacts the lungs - MYTH

If asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, the particles can cling to the linings of the lungs, heart or abdomen, causing different forms of mesothelioma cancer. Mesothelioma is diagnosed in approximately 3,000 Americans each year.

 

  1.  Mesothelioma is the only known disease caused by asbestos - MYTH

While asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, other diseases can develop over time due to exposure, including asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis. Symptoms can sometimes take 20 to 50 years to appear after someone has been exposed to the carcinogenic mineral. A typical mesothelioma prognosis is usually poor and patients are commonly aged 55 or older when diagnosed.

 

  1.  Asbestos has been banned in the United States - MYTH

Although asbestos use has been banned in countries like the UK and Australia, up to one percent of asbestos is still legally allowed for use in building materials in the United States. An important truth to understand is that there is no safe amount of asbestos to be in contact with.