3 Important Facts You Should Know About Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once mined in over 25 countries (including the US and Canada) worldwide.  It is a very tough fiber-based material. It is also heat-resistant and long lasting. Asbestos had a wide variety of uses in manufacturing and construction.  Public awareness of the health issues associated with exposure to asbestos ended the asbestos boom. The long-lasting effects of asbestos have created a public health crisis. It is important to understand asbestos and the impact it has on us all. 

Where is asbestos found today?

Although it is rarely used today, asbestos is still around in millions of homes, buildings and products. Asbestos was literally "built-in" to most buildings in the United States.  In the mid 1970's, before the risks were widely understood, U.S. consumption was at an all-time high.

Asbestos was used extensively as insulation in both commercial and residential buildings.  The insulation was put in attics, ductwork, sidings, piping, basements, electrical panels, and floors.  From the 1950s until it was banned in 1977, popcorn ceilings were made with asbestos.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that 30 million plus residences have asbestos contamination from just one manufacturer, the W.R. Grace Company.

Commercial use of asbestos products includes car and airplane brakes, brake pads, seals clutches, and gaskets. There was widespread use of asbestos in cement, caulking, and industrial compounds. Most commercial buildings were sprayed with asbestos fire-proofing paints.

What are the health risks associated with exposure to asbestos?

The short answer is that undisturbed asbestos is not a threat.  Asbestos is most dangerous when it is released into the open air.  Exposure results when people inhale tiny, durable, and sometimes deadly asbestos fibers.

Long term exposure may cause serious lung diseases (including cancer). Asbestosis is the scarring of the lungs that can develop. These conditions often do not develop for decades after exposure.

Construction workers, dockworkers, and insulation installers, who have worked with asbestos over a period of years, are at a higher risk.  These workers often worked in environments where the asbestos was disturbed and they were not wearing any protective gear.

How is asbestos identified and abated?

Any home built before 1980 should be inspected by a certified inspector like http://www.arguspacific.com. Any commercial building built before 1980 will most likely have asbestos.  If asbestos is identified, it can be safely removed by a licensed crew who specializes in asbestos abatement. Qualified environmental examiners are able to test materials to see if asbestos is present and measure the level of asbestos in the air.

If asbestos insulation is present, do not disturb or damage the materials.  Once the fibers are released into the atmosphere, the threat of exposure begins.