Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Closer Than You Think: Asbestos Exposure in the Home
If you are living in a house that was built before 1980, there is a good chance some of the materials used to construct your house contained some asbestos. Even if asbestos is present in your home, this should not usually present a serious health risk.
There is no room for complacency, however, especially when you consider that some people are diagnosed with mesothelioma after prolonged exposure to asbestos-containing materials. Although this type of cancer is rare, it highlights the consequences of being exposed to asbestos which can become a health hazard if the fibers become damaged and are released into the air.
Examples of asbestos in your home
Asbestos was a widely used material in construction and continued to be used right up until the end of the 1970s when its use was severely restricted on health grounds.
Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may well have used asbestos as insulation and asbestos may also be present in textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. These materials were outlawed in 1977, but you should check if they are still present in your property if it is old enough.
If you have an old gas fireplace on your property, the artificial ashes and ambers sold for use with these fireplaces could contain asbestos. Other things to check for would be hot water and steam pipes in an older property which could have been coated with an asbestos material.
You can get a factsheet from the Environmental Protection Agency with a list of products and fittings that may contain asbestos and also get some information regarding safe removal.
Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can increase your risk of contracting mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and also the abdominal cavity.
There is also the risk of asbestosis, a disease where the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.
The more fibers you inhale, the greater your risk of contracting lung cancer and mesothelioma. The difficulty is that the symptoms of these diseases may not actually reveal themselves until some 15 to 60 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.
Many of us experience exposure to small amounts of asbestos on a fairly regular basis but the levels are not enough to develop the health problems that lead to serious and life-threatening health issues.
What to do
The best advice if you think you have asbestos in your home is to not disturb it yourself but call in a professional to get a proper assessment of the situation.
If the materials in your home are in good condition and not disturbed, they will not release asbestos fibers into the air. The dangers are raised to significant levels only when the fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs.
Make enquiries with a local health and environmental official to find out details of the proper handling and disposal procedures you have to follow.
Asbestos exposure in your home can present a health risk, but if you do not disturb the fibers and use a professional to handle any materials, you should be able to reduce the risk to safe levels.
Katie Johnson has a diverse background in PR, journalism and digital marketing. She is focused on creating a unique community for family, friends or those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma or an asbestos-related disease.