October 21, 2011

asbestos insulation

Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous mineral with very remarkable qualities: it can effectively resist heat, steam, and fire. These qualities make asbestos an ideal material for insulation, which were used to line roofs, ceilings, attics, and walls of both houses and buildings. The type of insulation was widely used in residential, public, and commercial buildings before the 1980's.

Despite its excellent qualities that made it an ideal ingredient for construction materials, asbestos is highly hazardous to both the health of humans and animals. Asbestos consists of several silicate minerals that can be separated into fibers and particles easily. When inhaled and ingested, these particles and fibers can cause a variety of pulmonary diseases, including asbestos poisoning (a scarring of the lung tissues caused by sharp asbestos fibers and will cause chest pains, shortness of breath, and dry coughing), mesothelioma (a cancer unique to asbestos exposure-and an extremely fatal one), and several kinds of cancer that will affect the lungs, stomach, larynx, esophagus, and even the kidneys.

Asbestos insulation is a problem that plagues a lot of homeowners and property owners. Action should be immediately taken, because the risks of the diseases mentioned above will increase when exposure is prolonged. How will you know if your insulation uses asbestos? Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • It is important for you to know the exact date when the house or building you are living in is constructed. If it was built before the 1960's, there is a high chance that the insulation material lining the walls, attic, and roofs.
  • Check if the insulation used in your house or building is of the loose or batted type. These kinds of insulation material will look life fluffy, grayish clumps of fibers and they are often found between the rafters.
  • If your home has a lot of old pipes, check if they are covered with a blanket-like material in the elbow joints and valves-these are insulation materials that contain asbestos. There are also asbestos insulation materials that look like cardboard coverings-and this was especially popular in steam heating pipes manufactured in the 1910's to the 1980's.
If you suspect that the insulation materials in your home or building contain asbestos, you should treat them as though they really contain asbestos. This means avoiding contact or exposure to them, and immediately calling a professional asbestos remover to inspect them. Asbestos can only be positively identified by using polarizing light microscopy, which can be found in laboratories certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

You should not try to remove asbestos insulation by yourself, even if you wear something over your nose to provide protection from inhaling the fibers. Licensed professionals use special masks and gloves to handle the asbestos materials, and they possess the technical knowledge to safely extract these materials from your home. They also use special equipment to isolate and seal off the infected area, and initiate decontamination once the job is done.