Asbestos: To Worry Or Not?

Many homeowners are concerned about the possibility of asbestos in the home and the health hazards associated with it. Breathing asbestos fibers over a long period of time can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

For years, asbestos was widely used in various materials such as wall and ceiling insulation, vinyl flooring, insulation for heating ducts, pipe wrap for water heating systems, roof tiles, acoustic ceiling tiles and much more. While the use of asbestos in construction has been greatly reduced, many of these materials are still present in thousands of homes. If there is a suspicion of asbestos in the home, homeowners will need to contact an expert to sample and confirm its presence. A visual inspection cannot determine whether a given material contains asbestos.

Is it always a problem? It’s important to know that asbestos poses a health risk when the fibers become airborne, which can occur if materials are crumbling or damaged. If there is minor localized damage, it can be professionally repaired by encapsulating the asbestos fibers with a specialized sealant. If the asbestos in products is in good condition, the best course of action may be to leave the asbestos-containing materials alone. Newer materials that contain asbestos are designed to encapsulate the fibers, preventing them from being released into the environment.

The biggest risk is for homeowners or other non-professionals to attempt asbestos removal. Disturbing asbestos usually makes it dangerous. If it must be removed, it’s a job for an expert who will also properly dispose of it. In some cases, such as a home renovation, asbestos removal is the only option.