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Prospective Home Buyers Should Ask Questions about Asbestos Exposure

asbestos exposureWhenever people look at a home they’re considering for purchase, they ask the real estate agents many important questions: Do the nearby schools provide quality education? How closely do we live to shopping centers? Are the neighbors nice?

Of course, all of these issues concern matters outside the home. When thinking about the inside, there’s one question that must not be overlooked: Will asbestos exposure be a problem?

If you’re a young adult, you may not be familiar with asbestos. The gravity of the risk might also seem surprising, particularly because asbestos-related diseases, such as malignant mesothelioma, are usually only seen in older adults. What you may not know is that these diseases can develop between 20 and 50 years after the initial exposure to asbestos. For these reasons, you need to be mindful of asbestos now, before even buying a house.

Risk is bigger within older homes
Asbestos is the only proven risk factor for mesothelioma. The mineral has also been tied to asbestosis, another respiratory disease, and cancers of the lungs and gastrointestinal system. One of the reasons why asbestos is so dangerous is because it’s virtually undetectable to the five senses, so it’s not always obvious whether a product contains the mineral.

It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that responsible companies and government officials began to recognize the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. Before then, though, asbestos was highly regarded for its strength and fireproofing capabilities. This is why it was such a popular component of construction materials in houses, particularly those that were built before 1960. However, there are certain products that are used in construction today that are still allowed to use asbestos in their manufacturing processes.

Where around the house is asbestos found?
In older houses, asbestos is likely to be present in:

  • Cloth wire insulation
  • Electrical panels
  • Floor tile mastic
  • Linoleum flooring
  • Spray-on insulation
  • Insulation for heating and cooling system products
  • Textured paint
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Ceiling tile mastic
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Siding
  • Wall panels
  • Plaster
  • Vermiculite
  • Caulking
  • Spackling compounds
  • Adhesives
  • Window glazing

Additionally, asbestos is still allowed in the manufacturing of:

  • Cement sheets
  • Cement pipes
  • Cement shingles
  • Gaskets
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Roofing felt
  • Roof coatings
  • Non-roofing coatings

Asbestos doesn’t have to be a deal breaker
As frightening as asbestos exposure sounds, you don’t necessarily have to turn down a house because the material is present. Generally, there’s no health risk to you as long as the asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and remain intact. It’s only when the products are damaged that mineral fibers can become airborne.

So, when you’re considering a home, ask the real estate agent about the presence of asbestos and whether the products are in good shape. One hypothetical situation you must consider is the need to have licensed professionals come in, inspect the asbestos and take appropriate measures, which may include repair or removal. When discussing this scenario with the agent, ask questions about who would be responsible for what costs. From there, you can make an informed decision about whether the house is still a worthwhile investment for you and your family.

You should be able to picture the future that you want in your house. The last thing you need is for asbestos to mar that picture.

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