8 Things Home Owners Should Know About Asbestos During a Home Inspection

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

1. What is asbestos?

“Asbestos” is a naturally occurring strong flexible fiber made up of several minerals. The fibers can be pulled into a thread and then woven. The fibers are resistant to heat, chemicals, and electricity. These characteristics make its use ideal for many industries.

2. How is Asbestos Used?

Asbestos has been extracted and manufactured since the late 1800s. It was heavily used throughout World War II. It now applied in many industries. The building and construction industries add asbestos to cement to increase strength, mixed with plastics for insulation, fire resistance, and soundproofing. The shipbuilding industry works with asbestos to insulate nuclear reactors, steampipes, boilers, hot water pipes, and more. Asbestos is used in manufacturing automotive vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads. Asbestos is integrated into over 5,000 products ranging from sewage piping to airplanes.

3. How do I tell if a material has asbestos in it?

All products containing asbestos should have an indication on the label. Read the label or contact the manufacturer for details and assurance. New trade agreements have allowed exports with asbestos to be sold in the United States. A HERO EPA certified asbestos inspector can also test sample material and then have it inspected by a laboratory specializing in asbestos.

4. Are all asbestos products banned?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibits the use of the following products regarding new construction and renovation:

  • Any new uses of asbestos, including commercial paper, flooring felt, corrugated paper, and roll board.

  • Surfacing spray containing asbestos

  • Wet- applied and pre-molded asbestos pipe and block insulation on boilers and hot water tanks.

  • Commercial spray (containing greater than 1% of asbestos) applied to buildings and pipes not bonded with resin or bitumen.

  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) outlawed gas fireplaces and drywall containing asbestos in the late 1970s. These products were deemed dangerous due to the increase in asbestos exposure in homes and the environment. Manufacturers of electric blow dryers decided to stop asbestos integration within their products.

  • Major recalls and public health concerns surrounding asbestos caused a significant decrease in the asbestos application. In 1979, Americans used nearly 560000 tons of asbestos and plummeted to 55000 by 1989.

5. What are the health hazards if exposure to asbestos?

Asbestos exposure may lead to several life-changing diseases, some are asbestosis, pulmonary cancer, mesothelioma, and throat cancer. Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that leads to irreversible lung damage and puts patients at greater risk of developing a lung infection. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain. Mesothelioma is a fairly uncommon cancer that attacks the thin tissue lining the chest and abdomen.

6. How significant is the risk with asbestos?

Exposure to asbestos may not cause disease to develop. Most exposed to asbestos have little to no symptoms. Asbestos poses no health risks if fused into finished products like tiles, walls, and pipes. Damaging these items (cutting or drilling) will release asbestos particles. When these particles are inhaled it puts people at great risk for asbestos-related illnesses. Particles absorbed into the body remain there for an uncertain amount of time. The industry exposing individuals to asbestos and fiber type has effects on health risks, as well. Research indicates that chrysotile is less likely to cause pulmonary diseases like mesothelioma than amosite. Despite studies suggestions, all fibers are considered to have some level of hazard. It is important to be precaution when working with asbestos. Learn more about asbestos

7. How long do you need to be exposed to asbestos to be at risk?

As the amount and length of asbestos exposure increases so does the risk. However, there have been cases of asbestos-related diseases to workers who were in contact with asbestos for as little as two months. Some workers indirectly working with asbestos, worked near contaminated areas, have developed illnesses.

8. Who regulates the general public’s exposure to asbestos?

The general public’s exposure is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Their concern is public asbestos contamination in buildings, drinking water, and the environment. The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates asbestos exposure in consumer goods such as food, cosmetics, and medicines. Contact the EPA TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) Assistance Office to address your questions and concerns asbestos and other hazardous products.

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