A common misconception about asbestos is that it’s only hazardous to those who work with the toxin on a regular basis. Although tradesmen are much more vulnerable to developing an asbestos-related illness, this risk can extend to anyone residing in an older home or building. This is especially true for those who plan to get involved in a home improvement project. Which can become a fundamental source of indoor asbestos exposure.
Although asbestos is considered safe when products containing the mineral are in good shape, renovations and repairs often disturb those materials. Which could result in airborne asbestos fibers contaminating the entire home. Homeowners, residents, and DIY lovers should educate themselves about where abestos can hide and how to avoid harmful and unnecessary exposure.
Asbestos and Residential Housing
The construction industry and asbestos have a long history together, with its modern usage dating back to the early 20th century. Before it was found to be a cancer-causing agent, the mineral was in high demand throughout the building trades. It possessed several attractive qualities.
Not only could this mineral sustain high-temperatures and inclement weather, it could also withstand a number of harsh chemicals. In 1973, the United States hit its peak use, consuming more than 803,000 metric tons of asbestos. Unfortunately, the construction industry was a large consumer of asbestos-containing products. In fact, contaminated building materials were used throughout commercial properties and homes across the country.
It is rare to find asbestos within newer properties. However, any home built before 1980 is likely to contain the toxin at some level. Fortunately, asbestos is not an immediate health hazard but can become a serious issue if contaminated products have begun to break down or have been damaged.
Loose or airborne fibers can result from naturally weathering materials and products in the home. However, renovations may also become a significant source of exposure for residents. Asbestos is generally considered safe until it has been disturbed. So home improvement and DIY projects can become a catalyst for exposure because they often require damaging old materials.
Toxic Household Products
There is no obvious way to identify asbestos on your own. So it’s important to educate yourself about common asbestos-containing materials and where they may hide. For example, vermiculite insulation is typically found in older attics and has become a pressing concern because it could be contaminated with asbestos fibers. In addition, decades old vinyl and asphalt floor tiles once contained asbestos. But if possible, they should be covered with new flooring rather than ripped up and removed.
Some of the most toxic items include a wide range of insulation products, roofing materials, sheetrock, cement, wallboard, drywall, textured coatings, old electrical cables, and more. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Check with an inspector before diving into your DIY project.
Ensuring Your Health and Safety
Although a single incident of exposure may seem inconsequential, any amount is considered a potential health hazard. Toxic fibers from renovations and debris can remain airborne for days and impact the health of anyone in and around the area.
Symptoms can sometimes take more than 40 years to present themselves. And many people are diagnosed with a chronic condition such as mesothelioma decades after initial exposure. This is not meant to scare or intimidate homeowners from personalizing their spaces, but to empower them to learn more about making the renovation process safer.
- ⬧If you’re planning to tear down, repair, or remodel any part of your home, you should always double check with an inspector to ensure the area has been confirmed asbestos-free.
- ⬧A trained professional can safely remove hazardous materials and disclose any areas of the home that show concern. This simple step is significant as it can put a stop to exposure before it happens.
- ⬧If you are concerned about a product or area within your home that has endured a lot of wear and tear, get the appropriate help you need from a a professional.
- ⬧Never try to follow a DIY asbestos removal guide. This can be highly dangerous for yourself and your loved ones.
- ⬧In fact, it’s best to restrict any activity that can carry fibers throughout your home.
- ⬧You can, however, seal off the area to stop fibers from spreading until a professional can assess the situation.
Author Bio: Rosie Rosati is a Health Advocate for anyone impacted by the rare yet preventable form of cancer called mesothelioma. She is dedicated to spreading the word on where asbestos is still found today. And she hopes to connect anyone affected by this condition with the resources and support they may need.