Asbestos is a natural fibrous mineral from the serpentine rock. Because of its ability to stand up to extreme temperatures, Asbestos was manufactured to be made into material. This material, along with the fibrous makeup and low cost, brought Asbestos to the attention of manufacturers who then would produce products for house siding, roofing materials, insulation and paper products for more than 60 years.
Then the discovery was made that this material was possibly carcinogenic and was hazardous when inhaled. It was suggested that it may have caused Mesothelioma and lung cancer in the 1970's. The EPA restricted its use and began a 10-year period where the material would be phased out of products. By that time it was estimated approximately 25 million American homes had a new type of pollutant, invisible and menacing lingering in their homes indoor atmosphere. Many of the materials made and used were for the building trades. Homes had to be rid of the hazard prior to selling, as it became a liability issue to expose potential buyers to a known hazard such as Asbestos. A recent, however not clinical and definitive research has linked these diseases to incidental exposure in the home. This is problematic as the long-term effects of so called "low level" exposure as opposed to "high level" exposure from installing and working with the material daily are not conclusive. It is known however that the fibers of Asbestos tend to attach themselves permanently to lung tissue with long-term exposure causing the diseases mentioned and cancer. According to the EPA, there is "no safe exposure" to airborne asbestos and it's continue use is not warranted. The State of Washington Department of Ecology issues this warning their website about Asbestos:
"Disturbed asbestos is very hazardous to building occupants and visitors.
Non-friable (contained) asbestos that is left in place is not very hazardous to building occupants.
Safe removal of asbestos usually requires respirators, liquid wetting agents, a negative air pressure enclosure and special training to prevent worker and building occupant exposure to the microscopic fibers. Certified abatement contractors have the training and equipment and will do air monitoring to make certain asbestos is not released during the project. Certified abatement contractors are sometimes referred to 'Asbestos Abatement', 'Asbestos Consulting' and ' Environmental and Ecological Services' contractors."
In an older home, Asbestos can be in many places. Any home built prior to 1980 may have this in the home in things such as vinyl flooring or backing, Plaster and Dry wall and the "mud" or joint compound that finishes the seams. In Fireplaces the floor that the wood sits on could be made of asbestos, as well as artificial wood or coals for gas burning fireplaces. It can be found in insulation in attics or the cellulose type that is blown in cement blocks for insulation. Shingles prior to 1980 were made of asbestos as well as the under lament paper for roofs. Ducting is the most common place that asbestos is found. Wrapped around furnace and ac ducting, the pad that the furnaces or pads that a boiler sits on, all may have asbestos insulating them. Old insulated electrical wiring should also be avoided and when remodeling new wire should be used and the old left alone and contained.
If you suspect you may have asbestos in your home and it is in good condition, best thing is to leave it alone and cover it thus containing it. However laboratory testing is needed to see the microscopic make up the fibers that may be in products manufactured prior to 1980 are Asbestos. Healthy Homes, Inc. can help you find a certified Asbestos Abatement contractor in your area. The good news is that this hazard is relatively easy to identity and be removed by a certified contractor. The Federal EPA website has information for all who question if they have Asbestos in their homes on finding a qualified contractor. Be assured that contractors represented here have the proper qualifications and state and federal certificates and insurance. As the homeowner or building owner, this information is here for you to understand your part in the abatement process.