Healthy Homes – Part 2, Asbestos

by Rachel Laurendeau on December 12, 2012

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at two hazards that can lurk in the home: radon and lead. Today, we’ll be talking about another potential health concern that can be found in many American homes, workplaces and schools: asbestos.

What is asbestos and where is it found?
Asbestos is a mineral that was long used in building materials and other consumer products due to its strength and heat resistance. It was commonly used in materials such as ceiling tiles, vinyl floor tiles, roofing shingles, fireproofing and acoustical materials and vermiculite insulation, to name just a few. However, unless a material is labeled, you cannot know simply from looking at it whether or not it contains asbestos.

What are the health problems associated with asbestos?
When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed during home improvements, restoration, repairs or demolition, the asbestos fibers can be released into the air and be breathed into the lungs. You can’t know if there are asbestos fibers in the air since they have no odor or taste. The greater the exposure to these fibers, the greater the health risks. Asbestos exposure can increase the risk of developing severe lung disease, a condition called asbestosis as well as certain types of lung cancer.

What can you do if there are asbestos-containing materials in your home?
If you are planning a renovation or if there are damaged materials such as crumbling drywall or insulation or damaged floor or ceiling tiles in your home, you should contact a trained and accredited asbestos professional who can take a sample and determine whether or not asbestos is indeed present in your home. If it is present and damaged or if your home is being renovated, the materials will have to be repaired or removed by a professional.

However, according to both The American Lung Association and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos-containing materials that are in good condition and will not be disturbed by home improvements are not likely to pose a health risk and are best left alone and undisturbed.

If you are undertaking any home renovations such as bathroom remodeling or basement remodeling, be sure to talk to your contractor about the potential presence of asbestos before the work starts. Keeping your family healthy and safe is essential.

If this blog article is interesting or helpful to you, you may also want to read Part 1 or our Healthy Homes series and come back for Part 3 where we’ll be looking at the potential risks caused by mold, pesticides and certain household chemicals.

Resources: United States Environmental Protection Agency and The American Lung Association

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