42 Years - A Professional Law Corporation - Helping Asbestos Victims Since 1974

asbestos at home

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.

How to Safely Clean Asbestos Ceilings

asbestos exposureWhether you’re cleaning your home for yourself or in preparation of a sale, you need to be careful if the house was built before 1980. In such cases, asbestos exposure can be a real hazard because the mineral appeared in a wide range of products, such as insulation and fireproofing materials.

Recently, I read the Home and Garden column of The Telegraph, a newspaper in Georgia. In a Q&A, a reader asked the columnist about the best way to clean the cobwebs off a popcorn textured ceiling.

Wear protective gear and proceed carefully
In response to the reader’s question, columnist Gene Austin noted that asbestos was a common component of popcorn textured ceilings in homes that were built during the 1960s and 1970s. Austin advised the reader that, before doing any major cleaning, it’s important to first test the ceiling for the presence of asbestos. Although there are do-it-yourself kits that provide the tools to collect samples to send to a laboratory, this work can also be performed by certified professionals.

If these tests show that the ceiling is made with asbestos, there is only the threat of danger if the material is disturbed. This is why it’s important to approach asbestos using only the utmost level of caution. Austin advised readers to mist the area, as damp popcorn is less likely to flake, and very gently remove the cobweb with a paintbrush. He also recommended not touching the ceiling at all.

I’d also like to take this advice even further and recommend that while performing this work, you should always wear respirator facial masks, eye protection and head covering. Once the job is done, your clothes need to be disposed of. And, if at any point the popcorn begins to flake or break off, work needs to stop immediately.

A ceiling that contains asbestos may be a drawback in any efforts to sell a house because you need to disclose the fact that asbestos is present. There are several ways to handle this. If the asbestos is in tact, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Otherwise, you should hire a professional to remove it.

When it comes to popcorn-textured ceilings, the best way to cover them is by using suspended ceiling tiles, which provides more protection than drywall. Still, the presence of the asbestos needs to be disclosed.

Make sure the professionals are qualified
Remember – asbestos was present in as many as 3,000 consumer and industrial products by the mid-1970s. This is responsible for the trends we are now seeing in the incidence of diseases like malignant mesothelioma.

If you decide to work with a professional to solve your home’s asbestos problem, remember that there are no federal laws requiring these individuals to be specially trained in handling asbestos. These regulations often fall under state and local laws, which you should consult in order to ensure that you are working with someone who is knowledgeable. Once a job is complete, make sure the people you hire provide you with written assurance that they followed all safety measures.

DIY Enthusiasts: Beware of Floor Tiles Containing Asbestos

floor_tilesDo-it-yourself enthusiasts often take on home improvement projects in order to enliven the aesthetic appeal of their houses. If you count yourself among these hobbyists, you recognize the joy of painting, gardening or building your own furniture. However, you need to remember that asbestos is the principal cause of mesothelioma, and that construction materials in older houses may contain this hazardous material.

For example, Patty Packrat, a columnist for the Loveland Reporter-Herald in Colorado, warns readers that some floor tiles may have been manufactured with asbestos. If these products are disturbed during home renovation products, they may release asbestos fibers into the air, which can become dangerous if inhaled.

“If you’re not sure whether your tile might contain friable asbestos you can consult a licensed asbestos expert to take samples for analysis. If it is found you may want to hire a licensed asbestos contractor to remove the material legally and safely,” the columnist wrote.

The Environmental Protection Agency notes that undamaged asbestos products generally pose no threat if they are left undisturbed. However, it is important to limit the number and types of activities that go on around the asbestos, especially if children live in the home. Never use power tools on these products, and instead of dusting or sweeping debris in these areas, use a wet mop.

Vigilance Can Protect Homeowners from Vermiculite and Asbestos Exposure

man repairing ceilingWhen purchasing an older house, potential buyers may ask themselves certain questions: Can the plumbing meet the demands of a modern family? Does the power grid need to be updated? Are there any contaminants in the home that may pose a health hazard – mold, lead paint, asbestos?

If asbestos exposure is a prominent concern, potential home buyers should be mindful of the type of insulation that lines the walls and attic of a house. During the 20th century, asbestos was a common component of insulation materials because of its ability to withstand heat, as well as its fireproofing abilities.

One example of insulation that may contain asbestos is vermiculite. Considering that more than two-thirds of the vermiculite in the U.S. came from the Montana town of Libby, and that the source was contaminated by asbestos, home owners should be alert to the presence of these minerals around the house.

A town history marred by asbestos
Between the 1920s and 1990s, Libby was known for being the nation’s main source of asbestos. Public health experts estimate that 70 percent of vermiculite in the U.S., as well as 80 percent of the world’s supply, came from this mining town. One reason why vermiculite was popular was due to its propensity of mineral flakes to expand eight to 30 times their original size when exposed to high temperatures.

Libby’s asbestos was distributed to more than 250 regional processing plants and ultimately shipped to every state in the U.S. Much of this product was processed and sold under brand names such as Zonolite insulation and Monokote fireproofing. Additionally, some manufacturing plants gave the waste product away for free to the local residents, who may have used it as filler material for the driveways and gardens.

However, the presence of amphibole asbestos in the vermiculite mine meant that as much as 26 percent of the raw ore contained asbestos. During the 1980s, public health experts started paying more attention to the well-being of Libby’s residents, who were experiencing higher rates of diseases related to asbestos exposure, such as malignant mesothelioma. These illnesses were affecting not just the miners, but also members of the miners’ households and other residents not connected to the industry.

In 2002, about a decade after the mine closed, the federal government designated Libby as a cleanup site.

Vermiculite around the house
If vermiculite is present in your home, it is likely located in the attic, inside the walls or around the yard. If you find vermiculite, you should assume that it came from Libby. The first step to protecting yourself is to refrain from handling the material. Disturbing it may cause asbestos fibers to become airborne.

When asbestos is in the attic, it is best to not use it for storage. However, you must enter the attic, try to limit the number of trips you make. If there are children in the house, do not allow them to play in the attic. Should you decide to make any renovations that involve the attic or walls that contain vermiculite, be sure you hire someone who is knowledgeable about the risks of asbestos exposure.

If you would rather not have the vermiculite in the house at all, do not try to remove it yourself. Instead, hire a professional contractor who is specially trained to handle such hazardous materials.

Remember that there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. If you are worried about whether came into contact with the hazardous mineral, consult a doctor or pulmonary specialist.

Get a Free Case Evaluation