As I stated in part one of this series of articles, asbestosis a group of naturally occurring minerals made up of long thin microscopic fibers. By its very nature, it is appealing to product manufacturers because of its high tensile strength, flexibility, acoustical properties, and resistance to thermal, chemical and electrical conditions.
Asbestos has been used in over 3,500 different building materials. Examples include but are not limited to thermal systems (boilers and the like), wallboard systems, surface textures (popcorn ceilings), ceiling tiles, roofing, pipe components, siding, and vermiculite insulation. Although attempts have been made to eliminate the use of asbestos in the US, stiff reaction by powerful groups using the product have been able to counter the efforts. As a result, asbestos is still being imported into our country.
If you have a home built before 1973, you can be pretty sure you have asbestos somewhere in your home. If asbestos has been used, say in packing around pipes from a boiler, and it hasn’t been disturbed by cracks or other openings, it is probably save to leave as is. If it has been exposed, it is likely what is called friable and is extremely dangerous. Contact a professional inspector to give you instructions on how to handle it.
One of the most common areas of asbestos in a home is what is called popcorn ceilings. They were created by spraying the ceiling with small chunks, usually containing asbestos, mixed with paint. All to often home owners want to remove the ceiling coating so they just scrape it and repainted the ceiling. Little do they know that the dust they see in the air is heavily laden with asbestos. It’s bad enough when adults breathe it in, but if a small child is exposed they have a very high possibility of getting cancer or asbestosis in 20 to 40 years. I don’t think anyone would wish that on their child.
Other areas common to older homes is either floor tiles or linoleum. As with the above mentioned coverings, if either is not damaged, do not remove it. If either is broken or torn, it is impossible to determine if they are asbestos without taking a sample and sending the samples to a lab. Asbestos can’t be positively determined without the lab involvement. If you have any question about the content being asbestos, error on the side of caution and call a professional.
What do I do if I am planning to remodel or renovate an area of my home? Just because you home was built after 1973 does not mean you don’t have asbestos somewhere. State of Montana regulations do not apply to private residences that meet resident exceptions. Nevertheless, it is recommended to have the materials tested for asbestos BEFORE you begin the project. The cost is minimal compared to a possibility of a life ending disease. Even if asbestos isn’t detected by testing it’s a good idea to block off the area where dust created by the removal of walls or ceilings will be unavoidable.
In my next article I will explain how asbestos must be handled before disposal. If you have questions or concerns please contact me at Ken.holmlund @ mtleg.gov. Thank you for your concern.