Dealing With Asbestos

 By: Gary Trevano
Asbestos is a problem in homes that a lot of people have heard about, but few understand. It is a mineral fiber capable of standing up to intense temperatures, added to a variety of products before people realized it was dangerous. It is now considered toxic waste, but previously was used in a some building equipment due to its low cost and heat resistance.

In the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency instituted a decade-long phase out of its use, but many older homes still contain the material. Asbestos is now considered a liability, and is sometimes the determining factor in whether a buyer will purchase a home or whether a mortgage company will provide a loan. If you suspect asbestos may be present in your home, it is important you contact qualified professionals to deal with the problem.

During the process of removing asbestos from the home, there is a chance the material will be disturbed and release the dangerous fibers into the air. This can also happen during home renovation products, and is dangerous enough to grind a project to a halt. It is when the fibers are airborne they become dangerous because they are small enough to be inhaled.

Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos may cause lung cancer, asbestosis, which causes the lungs to become scarred, and mesothelioma, a cancer in the abdominal cavity and lining of the chest. The risk of these diseases is increased based on the amount of exposure to asbestos.

If you suspect asbestos may be present in your home, consider the following:

- Was your home built between 1930 and 1988? It may have asbestos insulation.

- Was your attic or wall insulation made with vermiculite mined in Libby, Montana? This mine had natural deposits of asbestos that contaminated the vermiculite.

- Was your home built before 1988? It may contain textured paint and filling compounds that were made with asbestos.

- Do you have a wood-burning stove in an older home? Walls and floors were often protected with asbestos paper or cement.

- Do you heat your home with coal or oil? The door gaskets of the furnaces may have been insulated with asbestos.

Usually, asbestos is best dealt with by leaving it alone. However, if things are accidentally damaged, or if you intend to make home repairs that will disturb the asbestos, you will need to call on the services of an experienced professional to deal with the problem.

A professional will seal or cover the asbestos, if possible or appropriate. Sealing may involve applying a sealant that binds the fibers so they can not become airborne. Covering will involved placing something over the exposed asbestos to prevent the release of fibers.

An asbestos professional will conduct an inspection to determine the presence of the material. He will take samples of the suspected asbestos, and determine the best way to deal with it, based on the reason for removing or covering it. Be sure the company you are working with offers testing, assessment, and correction, or can use the services of qualified professionals to fulfill all of the three. It is important to know the company is adequately credentialed, as well as trained, reputable, and experienced.

There are laws concerning the abatement and removal of asbestos that the contractor must be aware of and abide by. When hiring an asbestos removal or abatement specialist company, ensure they:

- Include a visual inspection and collection and lab analysis of the asbestos
- Have no safety violations or legal actions filed against them
- Will be using the proper equipment and safety gear
- Supply a work contract so you can see their plan of action
- Will not track asbestos into other parts of your home
- Will not break materials into small pieces during the removal
- Will mark the work area as hazardous

When the job of asbestos removal is complete, a professional company will thoroughly clean the area with the appropriate technology and return it to normal, free of dust and debris. Restoration companies understand that the clean-up portion of a job is just as important as the removal, especially in the case of asbestos treatment. They also realize further air monitoring is a responsible precaution and will advise home owners on scheduling these services.

If you are concerned about the presence of asbestos in your home, or you know it is present and you will be disturbing it, contact a qualified, experienced service that will guarantee the safe abatement or removal of asbestos.

The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.
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