Why Would Asbestos be in my Home?
In houses built before 1980, asbestos was used in multiple ways during the construction of a home. Asbestos was used in old flooring tiles, ceiling tiles, roof shingles, cement, jointing compounds for sheetrock, siding, and flashing. It was also used as an insulator around boilers, ducts, pipes, sheeting, and fireplaces. Some homes also contain vermiculite attic insulation that has been contaminated with asbestos.
How Does Asbestos Become Dangerous?
Asbestos does not become dangerous until it becomes airborne. If the asbestos gets damaged or disturbed, it releases its dangerous fibers into the air. For example, this occurs when asbestos insulation around heaters, boilers, or pipes deteriorates. The dust produced by the deterioration goes airborne and becomes a problem. Another example is when blown ceiling containing asbestos is drilled into or patched. Transite pipes are used to transport water underground to the home may also be a major problem. Transite is an asbestos-containing cement material which deteriorates over time. The dangerous part comes when the dust from the deterioration is released from the interior of the pipe and mixes with the homes drinking water.
How to Check for Asbestos
Normally, a visual inspection is not adequate enough to determine any possible danger of asbestos or asbestos fibers. As an alternative, samples must be taken of the suspected asbestos fibers and sent to a certified laboratory for testing. There are two tests that are approved for asbestos testing. Those tests are the Polarized Light Microscopy, or PLM, and the Transmission Electron Microscopy, or TEM. To take samples, it is recommended by the American Lung Association that you hire a certified asbestos professional to take samples. This will minimize asbestos exposure for yourself and your family. If you choose to take the risk and collect samples yourself, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a detailed guidance on how to collect, package, and send samples to a lab for testing. The National Institute for Standards and Technology provides a website of certified asbestos laboratories that conduct TEM and PLM testing.
What if I Confirm Asbestos in my Home?
There are multiple methods for containing or removing asbestos. The method chosen often depends on where the asbestos is found, the conditions of the material, and whether it is friable, easily reduce to crumble or powder and can become airborne, or non-friable, tightly bound to another material and cannot easily become airborne. Material that has asbestos that is in good condition and non-friable is not yet dangerous. It should, however, be monitored very closely for signs of deterioration and damage. Another acceptable method that is used rather than removal is containing asbestos material in good condition by using a sturdy, airtight barrier called Encapsulants. Encapsulants are temporary solutions that are applied to the asbestos problem area via a liquid form. The liquid provides a seal against the release of asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos removal is the only permanent solution when dealing with this mineral. A removal professional should use a HEPA vacuum, approved respirators, and disposable clothing. Asbestos removal is very dangerous and high risk if not done correctly and carefully.