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.

Asbestos Insulation

Asbestos insulation was very commonly used between the 1930’s and the 1960’s when it’s sever health risks were discovered and use was severely limited.  Aside from it’s insulating properties asbestos is also fireproof which makes it ideal as an insulator.  Unfortunately its health risks make it too dangerous to use. Asbestos is particularly harmful when it is disturbed or broken which releases thousands upon thousands of virtually weightless fibers into the air which then can cause lung disease when inhaled.  If possible it may be wise for newly found asbestos to simply be left alone and protected against any disturbances.

Before you decide what to do with asbestos insulation you’ve found it would be best to talk to an asbestos expert who can tell you exactly what you should do.  One of the ways to limit the asbestos contamination is to simply enclose the asbestos with another material.  By coating the asbestos you limit the chances that the asbestos has to get into the air to cause harm.  Encapsulating the asbestos is more of a short to mid-term fix though and the asbestos still needs to be dealt with in the long run.

If you find asbestos insulation in your house and want to get rid of it for good you should hire asbestos experts to come in and remove the asbestos for you.  Improper asbestos removal only puts more asbestos into the air and makes it more deadly and can be a health risk for years to come.  Professional asbestos cleaners will wear masks and protective clothing when removing asbestos insulation and once they remove the bulk of the insulation will wash the pipes or walls to remove any scrapes and they may even repaint or reseal the walls to ensure that there is no residual asbestos.  Unfortunately professional asbestos removal is a very expensive procedure due to its health risks.