How Can Asbestos Be Identified?
Asbestos is one of those things just about everyone knows is dangerous, but very few people have actually seen the dangers of firsthand. We know asbestos exist, but asbestos can be much more difficult to identify. If you have reason to believe you may have asbestos in your home, here are a few ways to recognize and manage it.
Identifying Asbestos In Your Home
For decades, asbestos has been prized in construction and manufacturing for its properties as a strong, inexpensive, and fire-resistant building material. Now, we know that exposure to asbestos over a period of time can lead to disease, respiratory problems, and other long-term health issues. Though it was more commonly used in homes built before 1970, there are still building materials made with asbestos to this day.
It is nearly impossible to tell for sure if something contains asbestos just by looking at it, but there are some materials that are more likely to have asbestos than others. When looking for asbestos in your home, start with these common culprits:
- Textured paints: Until the 1990s, paint makers commonly used asbestos in their materials
- Fireplaces or Wood Stoves: Fire-resistant materials in older homes, including those used in a fireplace or a wood stove, are likely to contain asbestos
- Siding shingles: In older homes, shingles were sometimes produced with asbestos to make them more fire-resistant
- Vinyl floor tiles: Some floor tiles and the glue used to fix those tiles in place were made with asbestos
- Attic insulation: If your home has an attic and was built between the 1920s and the 1980s, any insulation may be contaminated with asbestos
Unfortunately, as there isn’t a list of all the brands or products that contain asbestos, it’s impossible to know for sure if these features in your home were made with it or not. Red flags that may point to asbestos contamination include damaged drywall, siding, shingles, or floor tiles, frayed piping or insulation, and corrugated cement roofing—but none of these signs is a guarantee that you have asbestos in your home.
The only true way to know if your space is contaminated with asbestos is to have it tested. It’s important to NEVER test for asbestos yourself. Always hire a professional asbestos testing company.
Safety Precautions Around Suspected Asbestos
If you aren’t sure whether a part of your home contains asbestos, the safest course of action is to leave it alone until it can be tested and removed or contained. This also means keeping activity in that area of your house to a minimum.
Asbestos isn’t dangerous unless the fibers are released into the air and then inhaled, so try not to disturb areas with a potential asbestos problem. You should, however, try to keep an eye on that part of the home. Any damage to the structure can cause those fibers to be released, and exposure over time is more likely to cause health issues. If you are going to do any remodeling of an area that may have asbestos in it, you should first have the contaminated materials removed by a professional asbestos removal service.
Should You Have an Asbestos Test Done?
Materials that contain asbestos, if intact and in good condition, are unlikely to pose any risk to you or your family. However, it’s impossible to ensure that intact asbestos stays that way. Fires, floods, and quakes, as well as remodeling projects and normal wear-and-tear, can all send asbestos into the air. It’s especially important to test your home for asbestos when:
- You are planning to do remodeling, as the work can disturb asbestos-containing material
- Retiling a floor in an older home, as those tiles and old glue can contain asbestos
- There is obvious damage to part of the building, for example, drywall or insulation
- You’ve had some sort of damage, such as water damage, in a part of the home where you suspect there may be asbestos
- You have an insulated attic in a home built between 1920 and 1989
Identifying and Managing Asbestos
There is no denying that there are a number of health hazards that come with having asbestos in your home. If you do decide that you want to have asbestos testing done, it’s important to contact a professional—taking samples yourself can be far more hazardous than having the substance around.
Asbestos identification is a tricky business. Just as an untrained person shouldn’t try wrangling a bear in the wild, homeowners are better off allowing a professional to manage potential issues with asbestos. If you suspect there’s asbestos in your home, slow down, take a step back, and give Asbestos Project Management a call.Back To Blog