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Protecting Your Family From Asbestos Exposure: 4 Ways To Stay Safe

Research has shown that the greater the exposure to asbestos fibers, the more likely it is that serious and often fatal diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis will occur.

Given these serious dangers, how do you protect your family against asbestos exposure? Here are four ways you can help your loved ones stay safe.

Be aware of the risk of exposure and the need to identify possible asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos has historically been used in building materials because of its insulation qualities and ability to function as a fire suppressor. In construction materials such as roofing shingles, wallboard, floor tiles, and ceiling tiles, older buildings often contain substantial amounts of asbestos.

If you are renovating an older home or building, or working as a renovator, this means it's important to be aware of the risk of exposure to asbestos fibers disturbed during an improvement or rehab project. As we explained in a post last summer, the same is true if you are working in a home or building demolition project.

Be wary of DIY when asbestos is involved and use a trained asbestos professional where appropriate.

This is where getting advice from a trained asbestos professional may be in order. The goal is to find workers with the specialized skills needed for a particular situation. Their work could involve taking samples of building materials in ways that don't disturb asbestos fibers, or it could entail actually repairing or removing materials that contain asbestos.

In other words, this is not the time for DIY. A do-it-yourself approach to asbestos sampling or removal can do more harm than good by releasing asbestos fibers into the air when it could have been prevented.

Know what types of services asbestos professionals offer.

Being aware that you need help from a trained asbestos professional is a good start. But it's also important to know there are two different types of professionals you can hire for asbestos-related work.

One type is an inspector. These are professionals who make an inspection or assessment of a building, take appropriate samples of materials to test for asbestos, and advise on a plan of action. The other main type of asbestos professional is a contractor. These are the workers who actually remove asbestos from buildings or execute suitable repairs.

There are no federal laws that require the use of accredited professionals to handle asbestos in single-family home projects. But if you are a homeowner, it is still a good idea to check on whether the workers you are considering using for a renovation project meet applicable state and local standards for accreditation.

Be aware of asbestos fibers that might be on your clothes or body.

Despite the above precautions, you may find yourself in situations involving asbestos exposure. If you have been or think you might be exposed to asbestos, be careful not to take the asbestos fibers home on your clothing, hair, or body.

Ideally, you should wear protective clothing, gloves, masks, etc., that keep your body and clothes from being contaminated. If that's not possible or for whatever reason didn't happen, launder your clothes away from home and shower before going home. Although not common, spouses and children are sometimes diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease through washing the clothes of, or contact with, a loved one.

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