Does Your Home Contain Asbestos?


Asbestos still lurks in many places in the United States today, despite the fact that it was largely phased out and banned from the manufacturing of most products in 1989.

Where Asbestos Might Be FOUND

Your home, if constructed between the years of 1930 and 1980, could be insulated by asbestos. Asbestos may even be found in drywall, shingles, vinyl floor tiles, paint, and caulk.

Modern-day manufacturing of asbestos-containing items is more common than many people may realize. In fact, a recent United States Geological Survey reveals that asbestos consumption in the U.S. had increased by 13% from 2010 to 2011. Alarmingly, items that still contain asbestos today do not always come with warning labels (they are only required to be labeled if they contain more than the one percent allowed by law). Wallboard, brake pads, roofing materials, cement piping, and potting soil are just a few of the products today that may still contain asbestos.

Even though asbestos has been used in the construction of homes for centuries, it was deemed dangerous to the point of being regulated by the United States federal government in the 1970s. As of 2006, however, asbestos was still lingering, found in around 30 million homes and schools during remodeling and rebuilding.

The Dangers of Asbestos

The United State's government classifies asbestos as a known human carcinogen, with exposure increasing the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Human asbestos damage can be caused by people breathing in the poisonous fibers that have broken away from damaged materials. The fibers then can remain in the lungs, which could cause scarring and inflammation, creating chronic lung conditions.

Another risk is asbestosis, an inflammatory condition of the lungs causing shortness of breath, coughing, and permanent lung damage. For these reasons, asbestos has a history of banning, starting from the 1890s, when medical literature reported the dangers of breathing asbestos. By the 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency had prohibited spray-on applications of materials containing even 1% of asbestos.

Finding Asbestos During a Remodel

Asbestos is typically uncovered in a building’s roofing, shingles, and siding, old insulation, resilient floor tiles made from vinyl, asphalt, and rubber, cement sheet, billboard, and paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood-burning stoves, artificial ashes and embers used in gas fireplaces; and even in automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets.

When remodeling, there are a couple of things you should do if your home tests positive for asbestos. The first step is to not touch it. The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises leaving a potential site alone. Undamaged asbestos could pose more danger than leaving it alone. If you inspect the rest of the house for signs of asbestos damage and find it, then contact your local and/or state environmental officials to determine best practices for removal. Only professionals trained in safely handling asbestos situations should repair damaged areas, and methods and standards are pre-regulated by state authorities. Oftentimes only necessarily sites will be removed—those that pose a greater risk in exposure may only require a small repair.

Checking for Asbestos When Purchasing

When looking to purchase a new home, there are many things you should take into consideration, from the community in which it’s located to the size and style of the house.  One consideration that may not be as obvious is the building materials used, and whether asbestos is present in the house.

For older homes, you may wish to have it inspected for asbestos due to its known health hazards.  Licensed professional asbestos inspectors should be hired to determine if a danger exists.  State and local health departments and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regional offices are reliable sources of information for finding the right local, licensed professionals for the job.   It is important to remember that due to the potential health dangers of asbestos, you should always seek out a trained professional and never take it into your own hands.  

A Professional Inspector Can Make Sure Your Home is Asbestos-Free

To make sure your home is asbestos-free, a qualified, professional inspector should perform a visual assessment before collecting and analyzing samples in a lab setting.  If the inspector informs you that asbestos has been identified, you should hire specially trained contractors to repair or remove it using proper safety precautions.

Cooney & Conway are the leading asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in Chicago. Our expertise has helped thousands of clients obtain full compensation for injuries resulting from the negligence of others.