Asbestos: Where to find it and what you should do about it

Making sure that your home is safe for you and your family is absolutely essential. If your home was built before 1960, it is important to test for asbestos. Not only is it important to know if it is present should you decide to sell your home, it is critical for your health.

According to World Health Organization estimates, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure. Perhaps the most famous person to die from asbestos exposure is Steve McQueen, who was exposed to the material while removing asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a troop ship while in the Marines.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous, silicate mineral that can be woven into heat- and fire-resistant material in insulation for heating pipes and attics, as well as roofing and siding materials. It was used in homes built before 1960.

Asbestos can also be found in:

  • Car parts, including clutches, brake pads, brake linings
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Siding
  • Shingles
  • Wallboard and sheetrock
  • Spray on fireproofing
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Textured paint
  • Caulk

How asbestos affects your health

Asbestos is made of long fibers that can be breathed in easily. When inhaled, these fibers become lodged in internal body tissues, and this can cause cancer.

Most people are exposed to a small amount of asbestos every day. Health problems start with prolonged exposure to high amounts of asbestos. It causes mesothelioma, and cancerous tumors form in the linings of the lungs and abdomen.

What to do if there is asbestos in your home

The best thing you can do is to leave the material alone if it is in good condition. Unless the material is damaged and fibers are released and inhaled, you are not in danger.

If you find damaged material in your home that may contain asbestos, don’t sand, scrape or vacuum it. Asbestos should only be removed by trained professionals to limit exposure. If you are worried about asbestos in your home, call a specialist to do an inspection. If there is damage or deterioration, the technician will recommend remediation.

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