November 8, 2011

Recognize to living with Asbestos Insulation

Asbestos is a material resistant to fire that used to commonly be used for insulation. Studies later showed that inhaling asbestos fibers could cause severe lung damage and cancer years after the initial exposure, and the use of asbestos was outlawed. It still exists in older buildings, however, and care should be used whenever examining or handling material that is suspected of being asbestos. Recognizing asbestos insulation requires microscopic examination and you should use proper safety materials

Research when the building was built. Buildings built during or prior to the mid-1980s are more likely to have asbestos in them. The material was outlawed in 1978, but builders were allowed to use up their existing supply, meaning buildings constructed as late as 1986 could still potentially have asbestos in them. Newer buildings should not be at risk. 

Have your insulation examined by an EPA-approved laboratory if your building was built prior to 1986. A sample will be collected by a professional to ensure that no fibers go airborne, and then the sample is examined under a microscope since asbestos cannot be identified by the naked eye.

Wear a respirator, protective clothing, gloves, a hat and goggles that are all approved for asbestos work prior to entering a space with material you suspect is asbestos. Asbestos is only dangerous if particles go airborne and are inhaled, but proper care should always be used to prevent exposure. 

Living With Asbestos Insulation 
Asbestos insulation continues to be a potential health hazard, primarily in aging properties that had been insulated with asbestos prior to the dangers of the material being fully understood. In many homes where asbestos still resides, mainly in attics and between walls, the ability to fully remove the asbestos is not always financially feasible. Because of the high cost associated with removing asbestos, situations exist where learning to safely live with asbestos is a requirement for healthy living.

Know where asbestos is in your home. Perform a visual inspection on your own and know the areas that have asbestos, then make a listing of those areas. Be specific in detailing and noting what contains asbestos. Know that asbestos can be found in a variety of places and materials. Check attics, walls, floors and roofs.

Have a professional asbestos inspector check your home. Know that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) advises against disturbing potential areas where asbestos may reside and suggests utilizing the services of a professional trained in both visual and physical assessments to find and note where asbestos is located. Compare your own list to that provided by the professional inspector to ensure all areas have been assessed and analyzed.

Make copies of the list detailing areas containing asbestos and distribute it to everyone living in the home. Make sure to walk everyone around the house and show them exactly where the asbestos is located. Explain that the key to living with asbestos is to leave it alone and to not disturb it. For example, if asbestos is found to be in the walls, make sure everyone in the house knows not to drill or hammer nails into the walls where the asbestos is.

Educate everyone in the house on the ways in which asbestos can remain in a house safely. Make sure everyone knows to make each other aware if and when asbestos fibers have been touched or disturbed to make sure that the area is quickly cleaned up or quarantined until a professional asbestos remover can get the fibers out of the house.

Do not make any home repairs or renovations to your house when asbestos is present. Use a professional contractor trained in working with asbestos, as recommended by the EPA. Leave household projects that are near asbestos to others. Stay abreast of the asbestos situation in your house by performing monthly visual inspections of all areas to make sure that the material remains intact and that fibers are not being released into the air.