Living in an old house: Should I worry about asbestos?

There are many reasons families choose to purchase an older home. The architecture and character certainly factor into that decision, as well as the rising popularity of do-it-yourself renovations.

However, it is not uncommon for older homes in Tennessee – particularly those built between 1940 and 1970 – to contain asbestos. The hazardous material was frequently used in construction. But whether you are looking to purchase an older home or already live in one, is asbestos truly something you should worry about?

A common question, but a complex answer

The answer to this question is not straightforward. Whether or not you should worry depends on several factors.

Asbestos is a dangerous material. However, it is important to note that it only becomes a health hazard if something disturbs the fibers and releases them into the air. The presence of materials containing asbestos is not a threat in and of itself if they are intact and in good condition.

However, the risk of disturbing and inhaling asbestos fibers often increases:

  1. When homeowners conduct renovations or DIY projects around the house
  2. When materials containing asbestos age and begin to break down

Aside from this, homeowners face a relatively low risk of asbestos exposure, even if they live in an older home. That is not to say that you should not be aware of this risk – or that you should not take steps to mitigate it.

So, what can I do?

The first – and most important thing – to remember is if you suspect your older home might contain asbestos, do not touch or disturb that material. Disturbing the material is the primary way to increase the risk of asbestos exposure.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to determine if materials in your home contain asbestos by sight alone. So, it can help if you:

  • Become aware of the most common places you might find asbestos in older homes
  • Obtain a professional inspection and testing of the material if you suspect the presence of asbestos
  • Watch carefully for any signs of damage or breakdown of these materials
  • Get asbestos professionally removed from your home for peace of mind, even if materials are intact

Being aware of the risk and taking precautions is critical to protect your health as well as that of your family.

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