It’s back-to-school time and winter holiday decorations are already showing up in stores. Many people decide this is a great time to do a little fix-up and renovation of their homes before the holidays.
But, before you do, evaluate the project for any potential asbestos danger. Asbestos was largely phased out after 1978, however houses built into the mid ’80s could still have asbestos in unforeseen places. Homes built before 1970 almost certainly contain asbestos.
Still want to update your home? Popcorn ceilings, flooring, ceiling tiles, insulation, roofing material, siding, piping, old paint – the list of materials that may contain asbestos is extensive. If the age of your home leads to a high probability of asbestos, hire a trained and accredited asbestos inspector to take samples for analysis. If the sample is positive, it’s imperative to contact a certified asbestos abatement contractor to do the job. These are projects that must be left to professionals.
From the EPA: Asbestos Do’s and Don’ts for the Homeowner
- Do leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone.
- Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos, including limiting children’s access to any materials that may contain asbestos.
- Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material.
- Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by a trained and accredited asbestos professional.
- Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
- Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
- Don’t use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on flooring that may contain asbestos.
- Don’t sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing install new floor covering over it, if possible.
- Don’t track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.
Even public buildings have to deal with this issue. Recently areas of the U.S. Capitol building were closed while a possible asbestos release was investigated, delaying the start of the House of Representatives session and canceling some tours of the building. This occurred during an asbestos removal. Samples were taken to determine if there was potential harmful exposure in the incident.
Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a devastating cancer. It may be decades after exposure before an asbestos-related disease is discovered. Obviously, breathing these fibers should be avoided at all costs. If there is any doubt, be safe and use a certified abatement professional.
If laws and procedures are followed, your health – and your family’s health – are subject to a low risk of asbestos exposure.