Where Is Asbestos In The Home?
Where is Asbestos in the home?
Asbestos, a naturally occurring silicate mineral, was once called the “miracle” fiber, because of its fire-resistant, thermal insulating, non-conductive, flexible, strong, and wear resistant properties. The ancient Greeks and Romans both used asbestos for tablecloths, napkins, towels, and linings for suits of armor. It is rumored that early Roman Emperors would clean some of their linens, such as soiled tablecloths and napkins by having them thrown into the fire, where they were later retrieved clean, and whiter than before. This blog investigates where we typically find asbestos in the home.
Why was it used in homes?
Asbestos was first used in the United States, in the early 1900s mainly on steam pipes for thermal insulation and fireproofing, but was not used extensively until the 1940s. Today, there are over 3000 building products that have been identified to contain asbestos.
What makes Asbestos so dangerous?
It was well-known thousands of years ago that those who worked in the asbestos mines suffered from “sickness of the lungs” and died at an early age. Despite all the “miracle” qualities of asbestos, it has been classified as a human carcinogen by the EPA because research has proven it to be the cause of several debilitating diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and gastrointestinal cancer to name a few. They typically manifest themselves between 10 to 40 years after initial exposure. Because of the serious ailments that are caused by exposure to asbestos, laws, and regulations have been established to protect the general public.
How to find asbestos in the home
By 1979, new homes no longer used asbestos in their construction, although this is not 100% absolute. Precautions should always be taken and asbestos testing or an asbestos survey should be performed if building materials are suspected to contain asbestos even on those homes built after 1979. Suspect materials should be examined for their condition and be tested for the type of asbestos, the percentage, and whether or not it is friable (able to be crumbled by hand pressure). Suspect materials cannot be positively identified as asbestos-containing material (ACM) by simply looking at it, although its condition can be assessed visually. A sample should be taken from the suspect material by a trained and certified professional, typically a CSST or a CAC, and must be sent to a laboratory for analysis, where the Microscopist will typically use a method called PLM (Polarized Light Microscopy) to determine the type, percentage, and whether or not it is friable (able to be crumbled/pulverized by hand pressure). Laboratory testing is the only reliable method to determine if you have asbestos in the home.
Once the lab results have been completed, the CAC will thoroughly review the results with the homeowner and if needed, suggest different options to remediate the situation. Different options can include abatement (removal of ACM), encapsulation, or repairing/patching damaged material.
Healthy Building Science is an environmental consulting firm which provides asbestos testing, asbestos surveys, asbestos inspections and asbestos consulting services for multi-family buildings, offices, industrial and manufacturing workplaces, hospitals and medical facilities, and single-family homes in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and all of Northern California.
This blog was written by Abe Barocio and published by Alex Stadtner