It’s that time of year when thoughts of renovating your older home come to mind, but DIY and asbestos exposure are a real consideration before you begin.
Asbestos was a part of the construction in almost all buildings in the 1940s to early 1980s. It was readily available, fire retardant, easily molded into various shapes or configured for a wide variety of uses. It can be found in tiles, linoleum, texturing, paints, insulation, sound absorption products, ceiling treatments, in water heater closets, and shingles. If undisturbed, it may do no harm. But, once renovation begins and the fibers are let loose into the air, they can be inhaled to cause a variety of diseases. These include asbestosis, lung cancer, and the deadly mesothelioma.
DIY and asbestos – how to begin a renovation
If this structure was built, or renovated, in the 1940s to 1980s, and there is any suspicion that the area could contain asbestos, spend the time and money to get it examined by a certified asbestos abatement contractor.
This is extremely important, as asbestos inhalation can be fatal – not only to the workers on the project, but those who will live or work in the home. These microscopic fibers, once freed, can penetrate air ducts, land on furniture and carpets, and circulate in the air indefinitely.
If asbestos is found, abatement by professionals is the only safe way to proceed. There are contractors that will work on a house with potential asbestos and not even wear masks. It’s possible that even though there has been a great deal of publicity about the dangers, that they don’t understand the dangers or think they are exaggerated. In either case, it’s important that you hire professionals who are aware of the possible hazards. The non-professional may save you money, but remember the health of you and your family – even the possibility of death – is at stake.
Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mesothelioma is the most common cancer associated with asbestos exposure. It is a fatal disease almost always started by the effects of asbestos inhalation. It can take up to 50 years for it to present itself in a diagnosis. Once diagnosed, the life remaining for the patient is short except for a few rare exceptions.
Renovations or clean up after a disaster, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, are not the only way to be exposed to asbestos. First responders, people in close contact with those who are exposed, miners, automobile workers, and others may also contract diseases due to these hazardous fibers.
There is no “safe” level of exposure to any type of asbestos!
Though the risks may seem small in proportion to the number of asbestos-related cases reported, it is not worth the consequences of the gamble. Hire an abatement professional and be safe.