Great Question! I am glad you asked.
Maybe you are interested in the health of your family and the people that will be working in your home. Maybe you are just trying to do the job right and comply with local regulations. Maybe someone has spooked you with the word Asbestos, or maybe you saw a commercial with a word like mesothelioma. Bottom line is: you want to be sure everyone is safe, your project can move forward, and you are not spending money on unnecessary tests.
What is Asbestos Anyway?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is very strong and has great heat resistance. Because of these properties, it was used in many building materials such as insulation and adhesives. Turns out it is also highly toxic and its use is now highly regulated. You don’t really care about the background though…
Is Asbestos in My Home?
The short answer is: very likely yes.
Floor tiles, joint compound, attic insulation, & duct work are some of the common areas you will find asbestos. Even in newer homes, asbestos can be found in materials such as laminate floor covering. Asbestos was so widely used, it is present in many homes.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no ban on asbestos containg material in the US, so even new home may contain asbestos in different materials.
Hold On! I am Living With Asbestos?!?
You could be. But don’t panic, there is more to the story. What you really want to know is if you need an asbestos inspection, and we are getting to that very soon.
Asbestos becomes hazardous when it is airborne and breathed into your lungs. My guess is that you have not been breathing in floor tiles or shingles for the past decade. That asbestos is locked firmly into those products and has most likely not been putting you at risk of exposure.
Some materials, however, can easily disintegrate and become airborne. You could have more easily been exposed to asbestos in pipe insulation or attic insulation. Again, my guess is that you have not seen prolonged exposure to either of those.
The real risk of asbestos, and the people that those mesothelioma commercials are target to, are people whose professions have put them in repeated contact with airborne asbestos over many years. That is beyond the scope if this article, but you can read more about workplace asbestos exposure here.
So What Now?
If you have areas of your home where you suspect asbestos to be present, and that material is loose or disintegrated, it would be a good idea to have it checked out. If your attic is full of old insulation, or if your pipes are wrapped in cloth that crumbles when touched, you should at least find out what you are dealing with.
If you are just living your day to day life on the same old floor tiles, you don’t have much to worry about.
The real issue becomes remodeling and demolition projects. If you are taking those stable materials and breaking, crushing, or tearing them out… you need to know if asbestos will be released into the air.
Back to The Question: Do I Need an Asbestos Inspection?
Both the EPA and OSHA say that you must physically sample materials that may contain asbestos before they are disturbed. Contrary to popular belief, there is no set year or cut-off date for building construction. Though some counties place a year in their regulations, the fact is any building may contain asbestos and federal guidelines do not discriminate based on age.
Asbestos poses very real health hazards to anyone who may be exposed. Even very small exposures for a short amount of time can yield big consequences down the road. This is not an area you want to cut corners in.
Here is the best way we can lay it out for you:
- If you are worried and want to know if asbestos is in your home: YES
- If your family can easily access old, disintegrating insulation: YES
- If you are remodeling or demolishing: YES
- If you are about to disturb a material that may contain asbestos: YES
- If you are not remodeling, and your old hose in sound condition: NO
If you are starting a project in your home, a quick call to your local building department before you start will answer most of your questions. Every jurisdiction handles asbestos a little differently, and following your local regulations for testing can save you big in the long run.
What Happens if I Find Asbestos?
If your test comes back positive, a certified asbestos professional can advise you on the best course of action. You may not have to remove the asbestos at all. If you find asbestos and the material is intact, it may be safely managed in place.
If the materials must be removed, Asbestos abatement must be carried out by specialized crews. The extent of the asbestos contained in your home will determine the scope of your project.