Where Is Asbestos In The Home?

by / Friday, 10 October 2014 / Published in Healthy Building Inspections & Testing
asbestos in the home

Where is Asbestos in the home? 

Asbestos Roof Removal

Asbestos Roof Removal

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 1900’s mainly on steam pipes for thermal insulation and fire proofing, but was not used extensively until the 1940’s. 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 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.


This blog was written by Abe Barocio and published by Alex Stadtner


6 Responses to “Where Is Asbestos In The Home?”

  1. It’s great to learn more about asbestos. I had no idea that it could cause things like lung cancer if you’re exposed to it for too long. So, if our home is relatively new, should we still get it tested, just in case? We’re not suspicious of anything, but maybe safe is better than sorry.

  2. bioimager says :

    Polarizing Microscopes offer high quality, cost saving and the best performance per price microscopes for mineralogy industry. These microscopes are the best solutions for the observing, inspection and measurements of thin films of polarized samples. This includes reflected, transmitted, both reflected and transmitted illuminations, upright or stereomicroscopes with optional brightfield, darkfield, phase contrast, fluorescence or DIC capabilities.

  3. Alex Stadtner says :

    That’s right. Under almost every circumstance, it is OSHA regulation to either test a material for asbestos or assume it is an asbestos containing material (ACM) and treat it accordingly. Better safe than sorry!

  4. DoloresB says :

    I think it’s important for people to understand shy it’s important to have asbestos removed. It was only used in older homes, but it’s important when in doubt to check for asbestos. That way you can have it safely removed by professionals.

  5. Delores Lyon says :

    Thanks for sharing all of this advice on getting asbestos out of your home, and knowing whether your home may be at risk. I had no idea that asbestos stopped being used as early as 1979. That must mean that only older homes are at risk for the substance! It’s also interesting that you actually have to use a special lab test just to determine whether the substance is asbestos or not. Either way, it seems like this stuff should only be treated by a professional!

  6. Great post about asbestos in the home. I can’t believe your stat about how there have been 3,000 building products identified to contain asbestos. 3,000! My parents have a home that was build before 1979. I wonder if they have ever thought to have it inspected for asbestos.

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