Most homeowners have only heard of asbestos and its detrimental effects. However, what is this material, and what should you do if you come across it at home? Whether you don’t know much about asbestos, have been exposed to it, or just curious to keep your family safe, the guide below provides great insights into identifying and removing asbestos in your home safely.
Asbestos in Greek means inextinguishable. Typically, it is an effective and inexpensive fire-proof material with thermal and acoustic insulation properties. Asbestos was popularly used in electrical and building materials for its strength and heat resistance properties. However, it was banned in the 90s, but it remains present in several buildings, especially those built before the 2000s. As such, you can come across it in your garage, basement, or any other area at home, especially when carrying out renovations.
Since it was used with building and construction materials, asbestos naturally remains hidden. Nonetheless, some housing materials that most likely contain asbestos include;
HVAC duct insulation
Basement pipes and boilers
Vinyl floor tiles
Asbestos occurs as one of the six different types derived from amphibole and serpentine minerals. The six types of asbestos include;
Chrysotile – also known as white asbestos, contains a percentage of tremolite, one of the types of asbestos. The fibers are fine-textured and commonly used in ceilings, floors, roofs, and walls.
Amosite – this brown asbestos is strong and heat resistant. As such, it is commonly used in plumbing, cement sheet, and electrical insulations. While all types of asbestos are hazardous, amosite risks for cancer are comparably high.
Crocidolite – commonly blue in color, crocidolite is characterized by thin and brittle fibers. The brittle fibers can easily break down, making it one of the most harmful types of asbestos.
Tremolite – they are commonly found as chrysotile contaminants in sealants, paints, and other insulation products. They appear in several color palettes, including green, grey, and white.
Actinolite – they feature lightweight and dark fibers. Actinolite appears in many forms, as it can be fibrous and brittle or dense and compact. It is common in drywall, paints, and sealants.
Anthophyllite – it contains grey-brown fibers commonly found in composite floorings.
While these types have varying qualities and functionality, they are all potentially harmful to human health. Therefore, you shouldn’t attempt to handle asbestos yourself unless you are a professional or DIY expert. When disturbed, asbestos releases fibers that can be inhaled into the lungs. Such exposure can lead to several respiratory diseases, including asbestosis, pleural thickening, mesothelioma, and asbestos-induced lung cancer.
Health hazards resulting from asbestos exposure occur over time. Unfortunately, asbestos is hard to identify, as it contains fibers that are 10 times smaller than human hair. This means that you could be inhaling the particles over time without knowing. Below are tips on how to identify asbestos in your house.
Check for Water Damage, Abrasions, and Tears
If you have suspicions that some parts of your home contain asbestos, ensure that you routinely inspect the areas for abrasions, tears, and water damage. If you come across slight damage on the surfaces, don’t disturb or touch and restrict entry to such areas. Instead, contact a professional with expertise in removal or repair.
Call for Inspection
Before requesting an asbestos repair contractor, it is prudent to contact industrial hygiene officials to inspect the exposed area. Proper assessment includes complete visual examination and careful sample collection for analysis. If the samples collected show some asbestos, the inspectors should issue a written evaluation that describes the location and extent of asbestos damage in your home.
They should also provide recommendations for proper correction. You can use this information to guide the asbestos abatement expert when negotiating a clean-up process.
Contact Asbestos Abatement Professional
Before the clean-up process begins, you should draft a written contract detailing the nature of the work, terms, and applicable state, federal, and local regulations that should be followed. These include permit requirements, notifications, and asbestos disposal procedures that should be followed
Asbestos professionals can recommend abatement or encapsulation depending on the extent of the damage. During encapsulation, the contractor coats asbestos with sealants that prevent asbestos from being airborne. If the damage is extensive, materials may be removed completely.
During removal, you should completely seal the area, turn off all HVAC units to prevent fibers from spreading, clean using HEPA filter vacuums, and collect the removed materials in air-tight containers. Technicians should also don complete gear, including coveralls and face masks.
Asbestos identification and removal can be challenging, especially for new homeowners. Therefore, working with asbestos abatement contractors is prudent to minimize the risks of extended damage and exposure. Once removed, contractors should follow proper asbestos disposal or recycling protocols.
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