Asbestos in the Home
Many people are alarmed to learn that asbestos still exists in nearly 80% of structures built prior to 1980, including most of the homes we live and raise families in. Asbestos use was strictly regulated since the late 1970's, but that does not apply to older products that still remain in many homes and other buildings. For that reason it is important for homeowners to be aware of where asbestos may occur in the home and what you should do in the event it presents a hazard. Airborne asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma cancer in some people.
Asbestos was used primarily as an insulation material. It could be used on its own, but it was much more likely to be included in some type of mixture or compound where it could lend its insulation properties to more materials. Asbestos fibers are flexible and microscopic, which made it easy to include in thousands of different consumer and industrial products. Below are some of the most common asbestos products found in homes today.
Because asbestos possessed an ability to prevent temperature transfer and had insulation qualities, it was naturally used in home insulation products. Home insulation types vary, but nearly all contained asbestos at some point. Among the types, roll insulation, spray insulation, and loose "popcorn" insulation all used asbestos to enhance their effectiveness.
Among the more important properties sought when building a home is fire-resistant material. Asbestos was naturally fire resistant so it was used in many interior products, including tiling. Floor tiles were often made with asbestos. Asbestos was also used in adhesives or linoleum compounds that were used in flooring. Ceiling tiles were also a common use of asbestos. Because they were often in close proximity to lighting fixtures, asbestos was used to maintain their fire-resistance.
Asbestos was also used in exterior products, including home siding and roofing. Again, the emphasis on asbestos use in these products was to enhance their fire-resistance, though it also proved adept at adding insulation qualities to these materials as well. All varieties of siding and roofing contained asbestos, including shingles (roof and siding), concrete mixtures, and fiberboard.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Fixtures
Products used for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning fixtures in the home used an abundant amount of asbestos. Linings around ventilation pipes, furnaces, hot water heaters, and other piping were all commonly made with asbestos. These are often the most common and obvious uses of asbestos in homes today.
What to Do if Asbestos is Found in the Home
Contrary to a popular misconception, not all asbestos material is immediately hazardous. Asbestos products only present a danger when they are deemed to be "friable." Friable is the official terminology for asbestos products which are damaged, compromised, or unstable to the point where they are crushable or able to be reduced to powder through human hand pressure.
An example of likely safe asbestos product is concrete block which is in good and stable condition. An example of a possibly friable asbestos product may include a ceiling tile which has been damaged by water and is now easily breakable or cracked. In cases where friable asbestos products are identified, they should likely be removed by an accredited asbestos abatement company, particularly if this material is within a high-traffic area of the home.
Note* Amateur removal of friable asbestos products can be hazardous to the health of homeowners and their families. Asbestos exposure is proven to be a known cause of mesothelioma. Unsuspecting homeowners that performed home renovations using these products about could be at risk for developing malignant mesothelioma.