Asbestos is a mineral
fiber. It can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope.
There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to
a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and
Asbestos Affect My Health?
From studies of people who
were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing
high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of:
mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the
chest and the abdominal cavity.
asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.
The risk of lung cancer and
mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers
inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater
if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high
levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not
usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to
exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not
develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may
release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can
remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material
that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or
sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.
I Find Asbestos And When Can It Be A Problem?
Most products made today do
not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that
could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s,
many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes
contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the
past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:
- STEAM PIPES, BOILERS, and FURNACE DUCTS insulated with
an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release
asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly.
- RESILIENT FLOOR TILES (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and
rubber), the backing on VINYL SHEET FLOORING, and ADHESIVES used for
installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers. So may scraping
or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal.
- CEMENT SHEET, MILLBOARD, and PAPER used as insulation
around furnaces and woodburning stoves.
Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers. So may
cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation.
- DOOR GASKETS in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves.
Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use.
- SOUNDPROOFING OR DECORATIVE MATERIAL sprayed on walls
and ceilings. Loose, crumbly, or water-damaged material may release
fibers. So will sanding, drilling, or scraping the material.
- PATCHING AND JOINT COMPOUNDS for walls and ceilings,
and TEXTURED PAINTS. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may
- ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOFING, SHINGLES, and SIDING. These
products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled,
- ARTIFICIAL ASHES AND EMBERS sold for use in gas-fired
fireplaces. Also, other older household products such as FIREPROOF GLOVES,
STOVE-TOP PADS, IRONING BOARD COVERS, and certain HAIRDRYERS.
- AUTOMOBILE BRAKE PADS AND LININGS, CLUTCH FACINGS, and
Asbestos Hazards May Be Found In The Home
- Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos
- Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as
- Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in
patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned
- Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired
fireplaces may contain asbestos.
- Older products such as stove-top pads may have some
- Walls and floors around wood burning stoves may be
protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets.
- Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the
backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.
- Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated
with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
- Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have
Should Be Done About Asbestos In The Home?
If you think asbestos may
be in your home, don't panic! Usually the best thing is to LEAVE asbestos
material that is in good condition ALONE. Please contact the department
if you are concerned with potential asbestos contamination in your home.
This information has been
provided by the American Lung Association, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.