Is there asbestos in my home?

Depending upon the age of your home, the answer may well be yes. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber with heat-resistant properties that was widely used in construction and consumer products for years. Although it is less common in newer construction, it can still be present.

Usually if the asbestos material is in good condition, the safest thing to do is leave it alone. Asbestos fibers are most dangerous when they are disturbed and become airborne. However, if you remodel your home or otherwise disturb the asbestos materials in your home, you could stir up asbestos fibers and dust.

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. If you suspect there may be asbestos materials in your home and will be remodeling or repairing, hire a certified asbestos abatement professional to remove those materials.

Exposure to asbestos may sometimes result in cancers, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, and other lung problems (like asbestosis) that can take years or decades to develop.

Where are asbestos materials commonly found?

There are a lot of residential-related products that historically used asbestos for heat-resistance or insulation. These can be found in many areas of the home, including (and in addition to those identified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission):

  • Roofing shingles and roofing felt
  • Siding
  • Attic and wall insulation (especially in homes built between 1930 and 1980)
  • Wallboard
  • Older textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints or on ceilings (often associated with “popcorn”-looking ceilings)
  • Soundproofing or decorative spray materials
  • Artificial ashes and embers in gas-fired fireplaces
  • Stove-top pads
  • The wall and floor around a wood-burning stove may contain asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets
  • Floor tiles and backings, along with adhesives
  • Firebrick used to build fireplaces
  • Hot water and steam pipes may be covered with asbestos insulation, tape, or blankets
  • The insulation on coal and oil furnaces and their door gaskets
  • Brake pads, linings, clutch facings and gaskets in automobiles

You can’t easily tell which products in your home contain asbestos. If in doubt, it is best to treat the material as if it contains asbestos and bring in a licensed asbestos abatement professional. This professional can take samples for analysis, if appropriate, and remove asbestos materials safely from your home.

Again, you may not need to do anything about asbestos in the home if it is undisturbed and in good shape. However, repairs and remodeling can release latent asbestos and make it airborne.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation from the companies that manufactured, distributed or sold materials containing asbestos. Check with an experienced attorney about your situation.

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