This article was written for Structure Tech by Joe Lederman, of the Mesothelioma Cancer Center
Many older homes may require structural inspections or renovations, especially for those who live near areas where natural disasters may occur. If your home was constructed before 1980, there is a chance it may still feature obsolete construction materials such as asbestos.
Asbestos was used as prominent form of insulation for piping, flooring and roofing. It can appear in dry wall, attic insulation, popcorn ceilings, electrical wires and roof shingles. A Professional home inspector can identify the materials and provide an expert consultation for you. Asbestos is still regarded as one of the more toxic building materials. By taking simple precautions, you can ensure that asbestos exposure will not occur in your home.
Popular in the United States from the 1920’s through the 1960’s, asbestos appeared in nine inch floor tiles due to its heat resistant and durable properties. Asbestos also appeared in adhesives or glue in older flooring materials. If you encounter black or dark asphalt floor tiles, they may contain high levels of asbestos fibers.
If any asbestos or hazardous materials are located, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Disturbing it can potentially damage and release its fibers airborne. Asbestos that is disturbed or damaged due to age is known as “friable” asbestos. This is a serious concern because its toxic fibers can easily circulate and become inhaled. If you believe that your home contains asbestos, a home inspection could be extremely important for safety, health and investment reasons.
Consistent exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of severe asbestos-related lung ailments such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. There is no mesothelioma cure and the disease is difficult to diagnose early. Typically, by the time a diagnosis is made, it has progressed significantly. Physicians usually point to several factors in determining an accurate prognosis. These include cigarette smoking, age of diagnosis and latency period.
According to the experts, the general rule of thumb is if the asbestos is in good shape, it’s posing no apparent risk. If it’s in bad shape, it could be a problem. The only way to verify asbestos content is to have it sampled by specialists in a laboratory setting. If an inspector deems the substance harmful, the removal of asbestos in public facilities, workplaces and homes must be performed by licensed abatement contractors who are trained in handling toxic substances. Depending on the condition of the asbestos, many experts feel it is better to seal it off than remove it.
Licensed abatement contractors who remove asbestos, will be familiar with the regulations in protecting you and themselves from exposure to asbestos. They must wear protective equipment such as masks and gloves to avoid any exposure. The area is usually isolated from the rest of the house by shutting down ventilation systems and sealing them.
The materials should be removed in as large pieces as possible and places in disposable bags. Once the removal is completed, it will be time to replace asbestos with healthy, green alternatives. Recycled building materials that are viable options to asbestos include: cellulose, cotton fiber and lcynene foam. Cotton fiber is quickly becoming a favorite for home builders and renovators. Made from recycled batted material, it is also treated to be fireproof.