Asbestos Testing

Asbestos is a hazardous material that can be deadly if it is breathed in over long periods of time.  While most asbestos is not harmful as long as the fibers do not rip or the material that contains it does not tear and fibers are not released into the air, it is still good to know if asbestos exists in your home or office.  You can visually test for asbestos sometimes, but it’s important that you know exactly what you’re looking for.  Many other building materials also look like asbestos, so you don’t want to get the two confused.  Perhaps the best and most accurate method of asbestos testing involves using a kit which can usually be purchased from a home improvement store, or online.  The kits usually cost around $20-$50 and are the most accurate way to be sure you have asbestos.  A professional company who performs asbestos testing may charge anywhere from $200-$500, so it’s much more cost effective to try and do it yourself with a purchased kit first.

Asbestos testing kits require you to get a small sample of an area of materials that you feel may contain asbestos.  This material is then mailed off to a lab where they have special asbestos testing equipment.  The lab then tests for the presence of asbestos, as well as the level of severity.  Once they are complete, the results are either mailed or emailed back to you so you can then take the next step.  If you are not satisfied with the results or would like a second opinion, there are professionals who come to you and test the air and other bulk materials.  This is especially recommended for larger buildings.  If your home was built before 1978, it is definitely recommended that you test for asbestos, no matter which method you choose.

Asbestos Analysis

Asbestos is a strong and incombustible fiber, one that is used in a vast number of products, more so in the past, and namely those involving fireproofing and insulation. The reason that asbestos is generally not used today is because of the various risks that have been found to be related to it. It is a natural mineral with unusual qualities, and although it is a good insulator against heat and electricity, there is various health risks associated with exposure to the fiber.

Asbestos poses health risks when fibers are in the air that people can breathe, and the asbestos fibers then lodge in the lungs and can even cause scarring that will most likely ultimately lead to severely impaired lung function in the person’s body. The first time there was any real expressed concern regarding asbestos was back in the 1800s, then even more pronounced in the late 1960s when workers who had been heavily exposed 20 to 30 years earlier began to show increased incidence of lung disease.

Asbestos Analysis

Really the only known way to determine whether or not there are levels of asbestos in the air is by conducting an asbestos analysis. If you are not sure whether products in your home contain asbestos then you are going to want to call in an experienced contractor who will be able to check around in your home and determine whether or not there is a problem. Unless you are specifically knowledgeable and experienced in this area you should not attempt to take care of the problem yourself.

The asbestos analysis will usually not take long, although it can often be a complex and expensive matter when it comes to actually removing any asbestos that is found. Again this should only be done by an experienced contractor, and when disturbing an asbestos product, maximum precautions need to be taken in order to ensure that all people in the area are going to be safeguarded and protected.

Once the asbestos analysis has been completed you are going to have to take precautions to protect yourself in the future, and namely you are going to want to reduce the air pressure in order to prevent asbestos fibers from escaping from the work area if it does happen to return. Make sure that you always dispose of all waste appropriate according to the specific guidelines of your provincial department of the environment, and always get a second opinion if you are ever not sure about something.

Asbestos Inspection

Asbestos related health hazards in the home and in the workplace can be considered as among one of the most controversial issues of chemical contaminants in the last twenty years. Because asbestos exposure tends to take some time to manifest its symptoms, it was only in the past decade or so that its effects and implications entered the public consciousness when the first cases came out.

Housing materials of the past half-century and some appliances made before the 80s contained sufficient asbestos to have caused exposure. If you have only begun to be aware of the possibility that you may have materials in your home that may contain asbestos, then it is prudent that you might want to consider having an asbestos inspection.

An asbestos inspection can be as simple as finding a lab that should be able to assist you in collecting a sample of a material suspected of containing asbestos and then analyzing it, the costs of which are not expensive and usually below $50.

Or if you believe that a more thorough asbestos inspection may be necessary, you can contact a certified inspector for that purpose that may help you in not only identifying risky materials and components, but also giving you advice on how to dispose of such materials. Another good source to find help or assistance in an asbestos inspection is your local or state health departments.

Outside the home, the work place can also be a source of asbestos exposure. If your profession is involved in the manufacturing of asbestos related materials or other products, insulation work, ship-building, construction and building and even fire-fighting, you have to be aware of the conditions that define your work.

In the first place, if the industry you’re working for knows that it deals with high concentrations of asbestos, an asbestos inspection may not be necessary granting that the industry or company has the proper safeguards in place to protect you and your co-workers.

A company that knows the health risks involved also knows the potential for lawsuits and claims so it is in their best interest to provide their workers with protection. But then there are those who either ignore it or are hiding it. It is up to you to familiarize yourself with the problem and alert the proper authorities if there is sufficient reason to believe that exposure are present.

Asbestos Siding

Asbestos is a hazardous material that was used in insulation in older buildings, until it was discovered to be harmful to humans in the 1980s.  Asbestos was also used in many building materials, including siding for homes.  If you have a home built in 1978 or older and the siding has never been replaced, you may have asbestos siding.  While asbestos itself it not extremely dangerous, it can be if the material is disrupted (i.e. ripped, shredded, etc), and the fibers get into the air.  If you have asbestos siding that is unharmed and in fairly good condition, you may actually not have to do anything.  However, if you see tears or holes in the siding, it may be time to have it removed and replaced.  Keep in mind that if you choose the latter, it is best to have a professional remove the material to prevent any harm.

If you decide to remove the asbestos siding, keep in mind that the material is considered hazardous waste in every state in America.  This is another reason it’s important to get the help of an expert in this situation, so they can remove and dispose of it properly.  Otherwise you could be subject to a hefty fine if you are caught disposing of it incorrectly.  Perhaps the asbestos siding on your home is only damaged in a few small areas.  You can always just remove this portion, and replace it with traditional vinyl siding.  Of course, finding a color match might be difficult since most asbestos siding is older.  No matter what you choose to do, as long as you are aware of the effects of asbestos siding and how to remove or replace it, you should be just fine.  Always ask an expert when in doubt just to be on the safe side.

Asbestos Shingles

Asbestos, a form of magnesium silicate, is a mineral compound once highly regarded for its incredibly effective insulating ability and its resistance to damage from chemicals and heat, including fire.

There was a time when the protective clothing worn by firemen was made from asbestos fabric.  The remarkable flame-retardant properties of this mineral were appreciated even in the days of ancient Greece, where it got its name.  In ancient Greek, asbestos means inextinguishable.

Asbestos shingles, siding, roofing, and insulation materials were widely used in homes, public buildings, and commercial facilities.  Electrical and heating appliances were often insulated with asbestos and many automotive parts included asbestos as a component.  Many other industries relied on asbestos as well.

Unfortunately, asbestos crystals can easily lodge in the lungs, where it stays forever.  The scar tissue that results leads to crippling, often deadly illnesses, such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and another form of cancer called mesothelioma.

The extremely hazardous nature of the mineral led to the ban on its use in the United States in the 1970s.  Since that time, no more asbestos-containing products could be manufactured or used but the asbestos-containing building materials already installed were allowed to remain in place.

In most cases, a home built with asbestos shingles, siding, or roofing materials is safe as long as these products are in good repair.  Problems arise, however, when cracks, tears, and other types of damage expose the asbestos particles to the atmosphere.

Even when these products are in good repair, many of today’s homeowners are opting to remodel their homes instead of buy new ones.  One popular remodel option is to replace asbestos shingles with more modern-looking materials.

Handling, repairing, and removing asbestos shingles and other building materials can be hazardous to the health of the person doing the work, anyone else in the building, and, due to the easily airborne nature of the dangerous fibers, anyone in the neighborhood is at risk, too.

Because special handling procedures must be followed for optimum safety, working in any way with asbestos shingles, siding, roofing, or other materials is best left to professionals trained to handle these dangerous products.  This type of home repair or maintenance should never be considered a do-it-yourself project.

Asbestos Flooring

The industrial use of asbestos was banned in the United States in the 1970s.  Any buildings built before that time probably contain asbestos products in one form or another.

Asbestos flooring is one concern for anyone planning to remodel a home built before the ban on asbestos use.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as adopted a series of guidelines pertaining to the use, repair, and removal of asbestos flooring and other products.

It’s impossible to tell by looking if your home does indeed contain asbestos flooring.  Unless there are labels visible, a professional trained to detect the presence of asbestos is required.

Older homes are likely to have asbestos flooring if the home contains any form of resilient floor tiling.  This includes tile made from vinyl, asphalt, or rubber, as well as vinyl sheet flooring materials.

In addition to the asbestos flooring itself, the backing of the floor covering and the adhesive used to install it can contain asbestos.

Floor ducts to heating systems may contain asbestos insulation and so might any cement sheeting, millboard, or paper used for flooring under or around a fireplace, furnace, or wood-burning stove.

EPA guidelines recommend leaving alone any asbestos flooring that is intact.  Unless the flooring is cracked or broken, the asbestos is most likely sealed safely inside the product.

For peace of mind, however, many homeowners choose to seal or cover the asbestos flooring whenever possible.

Repairing or removing any asbestos flooring should be left to professionals only.  Handling the product, including sanding, scraping, or dismantling it in any way, is likely to release the dangerous asbestos particles into the air.

Repairing broken or damaged asbestos flooring is less expensive than removing and replacing the entire floor.  However, should the floor need to be repaired or replaced at a later date, the cost is likely to increase with inflation.

When damage to asbestos flooring is suspected, the EPA strongly advises that the area of concern be avoided as much as possible.  It is vitally important to avoid further damage to the flooring.

It is also wise to minimize any activities such as sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming that may produce increased air flow in the area of the damaged asbestos flooring.  Redirect any fans, ventilation vents, and air coming in from open windows and doors.

Never attempt to repair, refinish, or remove asbestos flooring.  This is never a do-it-yourself remodeling project.  Your safety depends on hiring specialists trained to handle asbestos flooring products.

Asbestos Surveys

Asbestos was once regarded as a highly effective building product and was used in many aspects of the building industry.  Today, however, we know it is actually a very hazardous material unless extreme caution is taken when handling it.

Most homes built before the 1970s probably have some product or building material that contains asbestos as a component.  Unfortunately, there is no way to tell by looking what contains asbestos and what does not.

In the absence of original labeling that lists component ingredients, asbestos surveys are the most reliable way to determine the presence of asbestos in your home.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chartered with safeguarding the health of the American public, recommends leaving the asbestos surveys and all work involving asbestos to the professionals who are trained to detect and handle these products safely.

Federal guidelines suggest no danger in products containing asbestos as long as those products and building materials are in good repair and will remain intact as installed.

Asbestos surveys are recommended, however, whenever remodeling or repairs are planned for parts of the home that may contain asbestos-based products.

In fact, the federal recommendation is to expect the presence of asbestos in all homes built or remodeled before the 1970s and to hire professionals to conduct asbestos surveys before disturbing anything.

When asbestos surveys confirm the presence of asbestos, most local and state governments require homeowners to hire specialists trained in handling this dangerous substance to do the work.

In many cases, handling asbestos-based products and building materials by someone other than a trained professional when asbestos surveys confirm its presence, it is a violation of the law.

Asbestos Poisoning

Working with asbestos, even for a very short amount of time, can lead to several chronic and fatal medical conditions that can be considered asbestos poisoning diseases.  It is possible to develop these conditions without coming in direct contact with asbestos.

The microscopic fibrous crystals of asbestos are released into the air any time the mineral is handled, including the handling of any and all products that contain asbestos as a component.

The crystals are too small to see.  They’re so light they become easily airborne and are easily breathed in through the nose and mouth, only to become lodged forever in the lungs.  The body’s immune system cannot break down these fibers.

Asbestos poisoning begins slowly and without symptoms.  The fibers become lodged in the lungs, where the immune system becomes actively involved in trying to digest these foreign particles.  Since the asbestos crystals are indestructible, connective (scar) tissue builds up around them.

Once enough scar tissue accumulates, the effects of asbestos poisoning begin to show.  The first symptoms may appear as soon as five years after exposure but 20 to 30 years is more common.

The scarring leads to thicker, less elastic lungs, which become less efficient transferring oxygen into the bloodstream and taking carbon dioxide out of it.  Shortness of breath with an absence of coughing is one of the first symptoms of asbestos poisoning.

Once asbestos poisoning has advanced, other organs begin to weaken from the lack of oxygen.  The heart is especially vulnerable.

Asbestosis, another name for asbestos poisoning, is only one fatal disease caused by exposure to asbestos.  Certain lung cancers and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining surrounding the chest and abdominal cavities and the heart) are also directly linked to asbestos exposure.

There is no cure for asbestos poisoning in any of its forms.  Oxygen and physical therapy for the respiratory system help reduce pain and discomfort.  All forms of asbestos poisoning are fatal.

Asbestos crystals are so lightweight they can travel great distances once airborne.  Exposure can come indirectly, as from working downwind of asbestos handling or through ventilations systems where asbestos products are manufactured, installed, repaired, or handled in any way.

Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos litigation is the largest mass tort in US history and has been valued at $250 billion dollars.  The vast amount of claimants has even surprised the insurance companies who deal with asbestos and has bankrupted over 70 companies.  It’s been over forty years since the first asbestos litigation took place and since then there have been over 600,000 claimants.  The number of claimants has drastically risen in the past few years, with the most growth in claims with no physical symptoms. 

Nearly every industry has been affected by asbestos litigation covering 85% of the US economy.  Originally mainly the manufacturers of asbestos were targeted however now it’s changed to any industry that used asbestos in its operations such as construction, utilities and textile mills.  Asbestos was used mainly as insulation, and insulation is used in nearly every industry in some way or another. 

One of the criticisms of asbestos litigation is just how big it has become.  People are beginning to jump on the asbestos bandwagon even though they don’t have any physical symptoms of having lung disease.  This takes money that could be going towards people who actually do suffer from asbestos related lung disease.  In addition, frivolous asbestos litigation removes money from companies, harming employees as well as the shareholders of the company.  All of these costs end up trickling down through the economy hurting many aspects.

While much asbestos litigation is well deserved due to the extreme health risks of asbestos, it is tainted by claimants and lawyers who are doing it solely for money.  Asbestos related mesothelioma, a cancer of the abdomen, is a very aggressive cancer that has a very low survival rate and the families of mesothelioma victims deserve a fair share from the asbestos companies.  Frivolous asbestos litigation just dilutes what the true victims are receiving.

Asbestos Law

The use of asbestos started in the early 1800s and became extremely popular during and after WWII. At the time asbestos was a great and common product to be used or housing and other commercial projects because of its resistant to heat, fire, chemicals, and does not possess the ability to conduct electricity. There was no asbestos law or anything to prove the harmful effects of asbestos until the1970s. It was in the late 1970s when the first asbestos law was created by the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission, or the CPSC. The CPSC passed an asbestos law that banned the use of asbestos in projects such as gas fireplaces and wallboard patching compounds because of the fear that the dangerous fibers on the asbestos would be admitted into the environment. This asbestos law also went on to state that people who were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis, and sometime for just a moment, were at risk for contracting several serious diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. These diseases are extremely serious and usually cause harm in the person that contracts the disease.

Although there was an asbestos law passed that outlawed the use asbestos, many people were exposed to the product after the facts about the dangers of the product were uncovered. Because of this, many former building contractors, ship yard workers, and other laborers have contracted these asbestos related illnesses, and feel anger towards the people that subjected them to these harmful products.

The diseases caused by asbestos exposure can lead to death and heartache, and are often caught too late because of the minor symptoms that are associated with the diseases. Because of this, many people are unfortunately having to face major health concerns do to working in certain fields decades ago.