Asbestos in Homes

Asbestos in Homes Can Be Hazardous

MANY HOMES REMODELED or built prior to 1979 contain some form of asbestos, a flaky white mineral that has hazardous potential.

Asbestos is found in certain types of rock formations. When mined and processed, it takes the form of fibers that are too small to be seen by the human eye.

Asbestos materials can become hazardous when, due to damage or deterioration, they release fibers. If the fibers are inhaled, they may eventually lead to health problems.

Friable asbestos, which when dry can be crumbled by hand pressure, is more likely to release fibers than if it is nonfriable. However, some materials that are considered nonfriable, such as floor tile, can also release fibers when sanded, sawed, or otherwise disturbed by some aggressive means.

Both friable and nonfriable materials have the potential to release fibers when they are broken or crushed during repairs or renovations made to a home.

Often, individual fibers are mixed with a material that binds them together, producing asbestos-containing material (ACM). The amount of asbestos present in the ACM in a home can vary from 1 percent to 100 percent.

Asbestos is most commonly found in insulation in and around walls, pipes, furnaces, and boilers. It can also be found in vinyl-asbestos floor tile, floor coverings, and mastics; sprayed-on ceiling insulation; roofing shingles, felts, tars, and siding shingles; and toasters and hair dryers-made before 1979.

Asbestos is used in many forms that can utilize its strength, heat resistance, anti-corrosiveness, and insulating properties.

You may suspect that a product contains asbestos. However, identification of asbestos-containing material requires analysis of samples by a qualified laboratory. Its presence cannot be determined merely by looking.

Asbestos that is managed properly and maintained in good condition should pose relatively little risk. It is important to be aware of the presence of asbestos before beginning any renovations, demolitions, or material repairs that may disturb the asbestos and cause a fiber release.

Material may be tested for the presence of asbestos by an environmental testing firm that can usually be found in your telephone directory.

One basic rule to follow when conducting activities that may disturb ACM is to keep the material wet. This will help keep emissions to a minimum. In addition, be sure to dispose of all waste in sealed, leak-tight bags.

Article written by Angela Siebold. Published in Louisiana Environmentalist September – October 1993.