Asbestos in Homes: A Comprehensive Guide to Identification and Safe Handling

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber often used in construction, engineering, and automotive industries for its heat and fire-resistant properties and insulating capabilities. But contrary to its superior building advantages, asbestos can be dangerous to work with. Asbestos exposure presents many health hazards, as the fibers can become embedded in the body's tissues when inhaled or ingested, causing Asbestosis and other life-threatening illnesses. While its use has diminished over the years due to its health risks, the presence of asbestos in homes is still apparent, particularly for residences built over 50 years ago.  

To ensure proper home safety, it's essential to be aware of hazards like asbestos in your home. This blog will offer a comprehensive guide to recognizing asbestos in your home and how to eliminate its dangerous presence safely.  

The Dangers of Asbestos: Where to Find the Microscopic Health Risks

Today, asbestos is regulated in the United States and is limited to commercial and industrial applications, but it’s still found in many residential spaces. Homes built in the 1950s to the 1970s were often constructed using asbestos for insulation purposes. 

Asbestos is commonly found in the following areas: 

  • Furnace insulation
  • Pipes
  • Air ducts
  • Walls
  • Floor tiles
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Textured paint
  • Roof/shingles 

An image of a box of asbestos floor tiles will lead to asbestos in homes.

Asbestos was also often used as a patching compound due to its water and heat-resistant attributes. 

While asbestos may be found in many common areas of a home, the scary thing about this once-popular building material is that it can not be seen with the naked eye. Asbestos fibers are microscopic, meaning you could be living with asbestos for many years and never know it's there. 

Asbestos Risk Assessment for Homeowners: How to Identify Health Hazards

Since asbestos cannot be seen, identifying its presence can be tricky. Here are some ways to identify asbestos in your home. 

Proceed With Caution: Asbestos Inspection for Homeowners

The most common way to identify asbestos in your home is by taking the necessary precautions to avoid exposure. For example, new homebuyers or property managers will often have their homes professionally tested for mold or asbestos before moving in or renting the property out. This testing procedure helps identify the presence of asbestos, if it’s hazardous, or if it’s possible to live with safely. 

If you have concerns regarding asbestos in your home but want to avoid hiring a professional, there are many DIY-asbestos testing methods, such as purchasing a kit online or at a home improvement store and sending samples to a qualified laboratory for results. The downside is the results may be inaccurate or only provide information regarding one area of the home. A certified professional can perform a risk assessment of your entire house to help ensure preventative measures are taken. 

Living With Asbestos: The Safe Way 

In many cases, if the asbestos-containing material is in good condition, an inspector may recommend living with it, as its fibers are only harmful if airborne. For example, if you have a 60-year-old floor tile in your home, asbestos was likely used as an adhesive. But as long as the tiles remain in place, there's really no need to replace or remove them. However, if the tiles have accrued damage over the years, the asbestos must either be contained or removed. Asbestos can be controlled by repairing tile cracks to reduce airborne risks. The removal of asbestos is complicated, requiring the help of a qualified professional to ensure all safety regulations are followed per state-specific laws. 

Asbestos Exposure Risks in Home Renovations: How to Follow Asbestos-Safe Home Improvement Practices

You may want to perform a risk assessment before you renovate or remodel your property to avoid exposing asbestos in the process. Demolishing old structures and removing building materials from older homes is the fastest way to release contained asbestos, risking fibers becoming airborne. Many states have varying laws involving how much asbestos can be removed without professional help. However, DIY asbestos removal is highly dangerous, posing many risks if you are unfamiliar with the process. 

It's essential to follow asbestos-safe home improvement practices, such as the following:

  1. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and disposable gloves and coveralls to prevent any fibers from traveling to your airways. 
  2. Seal off all other entryways to your home to avoid contaminating other areas. 
  3. Dispose of all asbestos using leak-proof, thick plastic packaging and drop it at a landfill site that is lawfully allowed to receive asbestos products. 

Following asbestos-safe home improvement practices reduces health risks and ensures safe construction for everyone involved. 

Signs and Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure: Safeguarding Your Health 

While testing for asbestos is the most reliable way of determining if it is present in your home, you may notice other signs that lead you to believe your residence is contaminated. Long-term asbestos exposure can have severe and potentially fatal health consequences, such as Asbestosis – a chronic lung disease, and Mesothelioma – a rare and aggressive cancer. Lung cancer and cancers of the larynx, esophagus, and other organs have also been linked to long-term exposure to asbestos fibers. 

Symptoms of asbestos exposure include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain 
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing 

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, consult your healthcare provider to determine if you have been exposed to asbestos. 

Cooney and Conway: An Experienced Law Firm Here to Help

Identifying if asbestos is present in your home is vital in ensuring good health. However, avoiding exposure is not always possible, leaving you or other residents with life-altering illnesses. An experienced asbestosis and mesothelioma lawyer can help you during this difficult time by guiding you through the next steps when dealing with the devastation of asbestos exposure. 

At Cooney and Conway, we have decades of experience building strong cases to pursue damages on behalf of our clients who have received a diagnosis and treatment for asbestos-related cancers. Healthcare costs are only rising, and treatment for mesothelioma or lung cancer is costly. At Cooney and Conway, we work hard to deliver the highest financial reward to our clients.