Due to its ability to withstand extreme temperatures, asbestos has played a big part in the construction of many homes. Although it is no longer used in construction, there are still very many homes that still contain traces of asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which is used to make thousands of consumer products including cement, plaster, and paint. Its fibers contain very strong bonds which explain its durability and insulation qualities. Due to such excellent properties, many homes built before 1980 contain asbestos as part of the thermal insulation in pipes and the basement boilers. Some floor tiles, windows, and roofs also have a touch of asbestos in them. But why was it regarded as a public health hazard? Do you have to worry if you have asbestos in your home? Read through the article to find out more about asbestos, how it poses a health risk, the types of asbestos and the steps you can take to identify asbestos in your home.
The Health Risks of Asbestos
Although asbestos is an excellent building material, it is also highly toxic. In its natural state, it is not really harmful to your health. But when it is disturbed and the fibers become airborne that is when it poses a health risk. Its fibers have very strong properties, not even the harsh environmental properties can rob it of its insulation properties. However, asbestos tends to disintegrate slowly over time and when exposed to it, the symptoms may take 20 to 30 years to show. Asbestos fibers can easily find their way into the body through the nose when breathing. When these fibers find their way into the lower lungs they change the shape of the chest cavity resulting in a disease known as asbestosis or fibrotic lung disease. The fibers are also known to cause mesothelioma which is an aggressive type of cancer which attacks the heart, abdomen and outer coverings of the lungs. Such diseases suppress the respiratory functions and may even cause lung cancer and eventually death.
Types of Asbestos
Asbestos is not one, it is a group of naturally occurring strong minerals. This group of minerals shares the same heat resistant properties, fibrous nature and even more of the same health implications. Here are the six types of asbestos.
Chrysotile asbestos is also known as white asbestos and it is the most widely used type of asbestos. Many cement building materials contain chrysotile fibers. It is white and curly.
Tremolite asbestos can exist individually or as a contaminant in chrysotile. It appears in a range of colors, from milky white to grey or even dark green. They are sharp making them very easy to inhale. This is one of the most dangerous types of asbestos and its mining has been banned.
This type of asbestos is also widely used in building and production of commercial products. It is brown in color and mostly found in insulation products including pipes and thermal insulators.
Crocidolite asbestos is also known as blue asbestos and it has thin and sharp fibers making it very deadly when inhaled.
Just like amosite, actinolite asbestos is also an effective insulation material. It is dark and can be found in seals, paints and even the drywall.
Anthophyllite is not a very common type of asbestos but it should not be looked down upon given it has the same adverse health effects. It is greyish brown in color.
Which Steps Can You Take To Identify Asbestos at home?
There are a few steps that you can take to identify asbestos in homes, but some of them are not very reliable because it is very difficult to identify asbestos fibers with a naked untrained eye. Even if there is suspicion, samples need to be taken to the lab for analysis and confirmation. A visual inspection is never sufficient to determine if a house has asbestos or not.
The best thing to do if you want to determine if your house has asbestos or not is to hire a professional contractor to conduct a home inspection. If you do find out that you have been living with asbestos within your home, don’t panic. Speak to your local doctor about this concern and also consider getting in touch with companies like MesoWatch, who are also here to help you out in a situation like this.
If a home is found to contain asbestos, how it is handled will depend on the condition of the asbestos-containing material and the location. If the material is solid and compact, it will have to be cut; but if it is friable, it can be reduced into powder and become airborne.
In some situations, it is better to repair the asbestos-containing material rather than removing them. Pipe tears are examples of situations where it is better to repair than to remove.
In some situations, removal or repairs may not really be a viable option. This may be the case of an asbestos material that is in perfect condition. In such cases, isolation of the asbestos-containing material can be a short time solution to the problem.