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Asbestos

Technology Snapshot & Benefits:
Asbestos is a small mineral fiber that was commonly used to strengthen materials and make them fire retardant.  If asbestos fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled and settle into the lungs, creating respiratory problems.  It is important to recognize the areas in your home where asbestos may be found and have any damaged or disturbed materials professionally treated.  Common products that may contain asbestos include insulation, shingles, flooring, and car parts such as brake pads and gaskets.  The EPA and CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) passed a ban in the last few decades prohibiting use in certain household products and requiring a label be put on any products that do contain asbestos.  Because of this, the prevalence of the harmful material in homes has been greatly reduced.   Visit the EPA's page on Asbestos in the Home for a list of where asbestos can be found and when it can be a problem.

Estimated Cost Savings:
Asbestos removal is usually a relatively expensive process, depending on the contractor�s rates.  It is estimated that complete removal from a 2000 square foot home can cost anywhere from $2000 to $4000 (Asbestos Removal Cost).  Some contractors charge as little as a few hundred dollars depending on the size of the space, but some ask for significantly more depending on their minimum charge rate.  Get bids from multiple contractors to help find the most affordable option available.  For more information, check out this article titled How Much Does Asbestos Removal Cost?

Asbestos removal has no direct cost benefits, but eliminating damaged asbestos materials can drastically improve your indoor air quality and prevent costly medical procedures in the future.

Issues:
Asbestos is incredibly dangerous and, if damaged or handled improperly, can have major repercussions on your health. The asbestos fibers are easily inhaled and can settle in your lungs, causing respiratory problems that can lead to major diseases including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.  Typically, these negative effects do not show up for 20 or 30 years after in initial exposure, making corrective medical procedures difficult and expensive due to the longevity of the asbestos fibers presence in the lungs.

Installation (Getting It Done):
It is impossible to tell if a material contains asbestos unless it is clearly labeled or tested by a professional using a microscope.  If you suspect that a material contains asbestos, treat it as if it does.  If it is still in good condition and is in an area that is rarely or never disturbed, it is best to leave it alone.  Inspect it periodically to check for damage, but typically materials in good condition do not release asbestos fibers.  If a material appears damaged, hire a professional with documented asbestos training to remove it properly.  It is not recommended that you attempt to remove it yourself because improper handling can worsen exposure and have negative effects on your health.  Ask your removal expert about safety procedures and precautions before they start the job so you know how to keep your family safe.  Mark work areas as hazardous to help give others warning.  Whenever someone is working with damaged asbestos materials in or around your home, be sure it is wetted down first to prevent the fibers from floating into the air.  Always use wet cleaning materials to clean up after removal as these will prevent the fibers from become airborne.  Never dust, sweep, or vacuum around asbestos because this will just increase the amount of fibers circulating in the air.  Make sure any removed material is put into sealed bags and disposed of properly.  

There are two ways to temporarily block asbestos without removing it.  Sealing the material by either binding the fibers together or covering it with a sealant helps keep the fibers out of the air.  It can also be covered with a blanket or wrap to help prevent the asbestos from being released.  Again, consult a professional when handling asbestos.  It is not recommended that you try even these simple fixes on your own.   

To help minimize damage to asbestos-containing materials, keep activity around them to a minimum.  Take extra precautions to avoid damaging them in any way.  Do not drill, saw, sand, or scrape any materials that may contain asbestos as this will launch a good deal of fibers directly into the air.

For information from the EPA on asbestos professionals and what to look for when hiring a contractor, click here.

Videos on This Topic:

Home Inspection for Asbestos (1:24) - Expert Real Estate Tips - Expert Jamie Dunsing demonstrates how to inspect your home for asbestos in this short video.

Asbestos (2:16) - Work Safe BC - This short video explains where asbestos is found and how the fibers can damage your lungs and drastically reduce your respiratory health.

Overview of Asbestos Removal Procedures (2:13) - EPA - This video from a 1999 series put out by the EPA explains the safety procedure, precautions, and steps taken during asbestos removal in homes and buildings.

More Information On This Topic:

National Safety Council - Asbestos

EPA - Asbestos in Your Home

EPA - Asbestos Health Effects

EPA - Asbestos Basic Information

 

 


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