Asbestos dangers are common during older home renovation and demolition. Builders, contractors, and house flippers could uncover asbestos in ceilings, insulation, roofing shingles, and floor tiles.
Even with small-scale projects, asbestos fibers can become loose and airborne, meaning that there’s a high chance for exposure.
What Does Asbestos Look Like
There are two types of asbestos fibers, but all asbestos is fibrous and friable. The first type of asbestos classification is serpentine. This type has long, curly, and pliable characteristics.
Amphibole asbestos fibers are the opposite. These fibers are shorter than serpentine and are not bendable, but stiff and straight. Typically, you will find amphibole asbestos, as the fibers are generally sharp and need-like.
Another feature to understand is friability. It describes how easily asbestos fibers break down by hand. The more friable, the more dangerous the product.
A few examples of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that can break or fracture by hand include spray-on coatings, thermal insulation, and spray-on insulation.
Non-friable asbestos does crumble by hand and could require power tools or intensive sanding and cutting to release the fibers. Roofing felt, window glazing, and vinyl floor tiles are some products that are non-friable.
Mesothelioma and Other Diseases
For humans, once inhaled or ingested, asbestos poses real long-term symptoms and health conditions. Often, a direct result of asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, a cancer that occurs in either the lungs, heart, or abdomen.
Mesothelioma happens after asbestos fibers attach to the lining of the three previous organs. Although microscopic, the fibers cause inflammation and scarring. This irritation develops into tumors and this is how mesothelioma occurs after asbestos exposure.
Patients typically experience a list of symptoms similar to other respiratory illnesses. As a result, doctors may misdiagnose these symptoms as other more common diseases like lung cancer.
Coughing, shortness of breath, fluid buildup, and tightness of the chest, along with a history of asbestos exposure, are strong indicators of mesothelioma cancer. However, symptoms might not appear for years after your first contact.
There are other diseases that individuals may develop from asbestos exposure as well. Pulmonary fibrosis, or asbestosis, impacts the lungs. When asbestos fibers scar the lung tissue, it could lead to mesothelioma.
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Another non-cancerous condition is pleural thickening. The lining of the lungs will build up tissue over the asbestos scarring.
Pleural effusion is similar to this, but there is excess fluid between the lungs and chest. There is treatment, which gives patients a better prognosis if they are later diagnosed with mesothelioma.
It’s better to stay away from asbestos, but short-term exposure is not as risky as prolonged and consistent exposure. Mesothelioma is a real hazard for homeowners and home renovators.
You could unknowingly release asbestos fibers through various home maintenance or renovation projects in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, or exterior.
Finding Asbestos in the Home
Asbestos was widely used in homes before the 1980s. For outdated and older homes, you could still come in contact with asbestos, especially if the home needs work.
Newer homes do not have as much asbestos. The U.S. has limited manufacturers to incorporating only 1% of asbestos, but no amount is safe. Knowing more about asbestos can prevent you from related health issues.
You can expect asbestos in places with electrical wiring, heating, and durability. Builders like the fibers because they are long-lasting and fire, chemical, and heat-proof.
Asbestos-containing materials were also ideal for insulation in electrical products and as soundproofing within walls and other products.
Popcorn ceilings are notorious for having asbestos. This, paired with a home’s age, can indicate asbestos within your home. Dimpling is another sign. Pipe insulation and shingles with asbestos may have surface dimpling.
Noticing the factors of age, dimpling, and what asbestos-containing products are can help you to discover and remove them. It’s important that you or anyone in your household should not attempt to touch or get rid of asbestos on your own.
Do not vacuum, collect samples, or throw ACMs in the dumpster. It only increases the chance of exposure.
Professional abatement specialists can test your home for asbestos. They will also properly eliminate any traces of asbestos. Depending on the situation, the ACMs may either be fully removed or encapsulated. It may be necessary to encapsulate the asbestos rather than remove it to prevent asbestos fibers from escaping.
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Encapsulation is probably the safest method as it entirely seals off the fibers.
While finding asbestos in your home can be alarming, there are steps you can take to prevent yourself from exposure. Learning about how asbestos is dangerous and taking precautions by hiring an abatement professional will reduce the likelihood of developing diseases.
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Image credit: asbestos in the home by twenty20.com
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