According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, asbestos can be categorized as any of various minerals that are typically used in fireproof insulating materials. Such minerals, chrysotile being one of them, tend to readily split into long flexible fibers and have been shown to cause serious illnesses.
The word ‘asbestos’ itself actually comes from a Greek word which means ‘inextinguishable’.
It’s known to popular in the construction industry because it’s resistant and strong to chemicals, and a good insulator as well.
So where can you usually find asbestos? Is there asbestos hiding in your walls? Materials containing asbestos were used in structures that were built before its banning in the 2000s. Since it was actually an approved building material during the 1950s and 1960s, you can still find it in the following:
- Roof Gutters
- Pipe or Electrical Wire Insulation
- Drywall Taping Compound
- Partition Walls
- Window Putty
- Ceiling Tiles
- Linoleum/Floor Tiles
Why Is Asbestos Dangerous?
It has been known for some time that asbestos is a cause of certain kinds of cancer, therefore exposure to it is risky. Asbestos is considered dangerous when materials that contain it are disturbed or damaged and the fibers are released into the immediate environment. Moreover, inhaling them can be harmful because they slowly cause damage inside your body, which leads to cancer if not diagnosed early.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that damages the lining of your lungs, or the pleura surrounding your lower digestive tract. Research has shown that the cause of this is asbestos exposure and since it is not easily detected, it can be fatal in the long run.
Asbestos-related lung cancer is one of the prominent kinds of cancer that you could get from asbestos. The symptoms of this disease are almost the same as those for lung cancer that is caused by smoking.
Asbestosis, on the other hand, is another serious sickness from severe exposure to asbestos that spans a number of years. This results in a condition which causes scarring of the lungs.
The last significant illness to consider is pleural thickening. This occurs when your pleura thickens and swells. If not detected or treated early, this thickening and swelling can lead to the lung being squeezed. When this happens you might suffer from shortness of breath, and experience an uncomfortable feeling in your chest.
Dealing With Asbestos At Your House
If you are dealing with a typical old house, then it might be time to evaluate whether your house might have asbestos, especially in its walls. Drywall was popular during the 1930s and your interiors might still have it. Remember that in case you wish to remove paneling on your wall, you should not do this on your own. Removing brittle boards will cause microscopic asbestos fibers to be released into the air, which will prove extremely detrimental to your health and those around you when ingested.
If feasible, you also have the option of simply covering up the walls with another panel surface. This is best done without drilling since that also releases asbestos into the surroundings.
Another place that asbestos might be hiding within your house is in your sheetrock mud, also known as the wall-joint compound. Houses that used this material during the 1940s and the 1980s might contain asbestos. Since during this time in history, the sheetrock mud was a readily available paste that can be purchased in any hardware store, almost every construction company had this on hand. This mud is plastered on the drywall to join boards together. When it dries, it is sanded to give a seamless and smooth appearance, then it is finished by being painted on. It is during sanding that asbestos is released into the air and can possibly be inhaled.
Keep in mind that asbestos is only harmful when the asbestos-containing material gets damaged or destroyed. Therefore you have to be keenly aware of deteriorating asbestos-containing materials in your house.
If you’re seriously thinking of your health and want to revamp your house, check first with your local municipality regarding the proper permits that you might need to obtain. Additionally, it is best to have a certified abatement professional handle the whole procedure if you are not completely sure about what you are doing.
What To Do When Dealing With Asbestos In Your House
Now that you have an idea of the common places where asbestos can be found in your house, it is time to learn about what you should do when faced with the presence of asbestos.
The first and most important thing to do is to keep everyone out of the area where there is possible asbestos exposure.
If possible, put a warning sign on the contaminated zone to keep other people from entering. If there are some items that you might need from the area, it is best to limit the number of times that you would have to go in by getting everything you need in a single trip. It is especially vital that you keep children away from such a place at all costs.
There are certain additional precautions that you must take, such as the following:
- Do not dust, sweep or vacuum the debris
- Avoid sawing and drilling holes into the walls containing asbestos materials, to prevent them from being released into the air
- Refrain from reusing your disposable clothing or masks.
Dealing with asbestos can be dangerous to your health, so it is best to seek professional help from those who were specifically trained to handle delicate situations such as these. This way, you prioritize your own health and safety, and also of those who are living with you.
Asbestos Professionals – People You Can Call On
In dealing with asbestos, there are two main types of professionals to get the job done who you can call on if you encounter any problems.
Your first option is asbestos inspectors. They could be your first point of contact, and can inspect your house to check and assess its present conditions. If you suspect asbestos-containing materials, then they will find them for you. They can also offer you advice on the necessary actions that will need to be taken if there are other harmful elements in your house. Inspectors also ensure that asbestos contractors follow proper protocols, like an appropriate clean-up, which is very important. They also check on the air to make sure that no lingering asbestos fibers remain.
The second type of asbestos professional that you should know about is asbestos contractors. These are the ones who will repair and remove asbestos materials from your house. Always include a contractor that will do air testing after the job is done to make sure that the air is clean and safe to breathe.
Some reminders that you should consider before hiring an asbestos expert are the following:
- It is best to use different firms when hiring an inspector and a contractor. This is a way to avoid conflict of interest between the two parties.
- Ask for proper documentation of the work done by both the contractor and the inspector. This will also help you in the future to provide proper proof that you have made the necessary changes to your house.
- Check on the past performance of the professional you are hiring. It is essential that you get someone you can trust and who has a good work ethic. It is also important that your inspector or contractor has good working relations with the local air pollution control board. Plus, it is crucial that they do not have a record of safety violations.
- When you hire a professional asbestos inspector, make sure that they provide a written evaluation that describes the extent of the damage that needs to be fixed. In line with the evaluation, they should also give a written recommendation for exactly what needs to be done in order to guarantee safety for everyone.
- Before anyone starts work, it is essential for a written contract to be in place. This protects both sides once the work commences.
Asbestos was a material that was routinely used in construction during the 1900s because it was durable and fireproof. As its dangers were not common knowledge at that time, it was widely used by many contractors then. However, upon further study, it was discovered that it can cause illnesses and cancers that develop slowly over time. Such diseases can create difficulty in breathing and even chest pains.
You might have to deal with asbestos in your own house, and that is not an easy task. Common places where asbestos can be found is in your drywall and on the sheetrock mud, which is also known as the wall-joint compound used to bind boards.
If you find yourself facing this problem, it is best to work with an asbestos professional inspector and contractor. They know what procedures to follow and the proper way to deal with the problem to ensure that your home stays a safe space for the people living in it.