A Brief Introduction to Asbestos
In essence, asbestos is a fiber mineral that can be specifically identified with the use of a microscope. There are different types of asbestos fibers, some of which were added to building materials. This is due to the fact that asbestos add more strength to materials. These sturdy fibers work excellently as they insulate heat efficiently and are fire resistant in nature too. If you have minimal to no knowledge of asbestos, and the potential danger of its presence at home, here are a few information from Home Inspection All Star that will definitely enlighten homeowners:
- The Health Effects of Asbestos
Studies conducted in the past reveals the ugly effects of chronic inhalation of asbestos among shipyard and factory workers during the earlier decades of the 20th century. Breathing high levels of asbestos over a long period of time increased their risk of developing a specific type of lung cancer, also called mesothelioma. This type of cancer attacks the lining of the lungs and the abdominal cavity, resulting in the deadly collapse of both respiratory and gastrointestinal system. Asbestosis is yet another condition caused by chronic inhalation of asbestos and is characterized by fibrous scarring of ling tissues.
The likelihood of developing lung cancer as well as mesothelioma increases as more fibers are inhaled into the lungs. Speedy development of lung cancer were also seen among those who were regularly exposed to asbestos and who were chronic smokers too. Those diagnosed with asbestosis were usually the ones with maximum exposure, ranging from a few months to years. Asbestosis symptoms usually reveal themselves 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos fibers.
People who are exposed to small amounts of asbestos fibers do not develop deadly health conditions such as lung cancer and asbestosis. However, materials that contain high levels of asbestos, when disturbed, can release high levels of asbestos in the air. Old structures that contains asbestos easily crumble create more health hazard, as the fibers are easily released into the air.
- Where are Asbestos Fibers Usually Found and When can it be Considered to be a Health Problem?
Due to the dangerously high incidence of mesothelioma and asbestosis in the first few decades of the 20th century, manufacturers have successful stopped including asbestos in building materials and insulating products for the home during the 1960s. Materials that contain asbestos at present are labeled properly so consumers can take the necessary precautions when handling them. Some of the most common objects that may contain asbestos fibers in the past, which may still cause health hazards when released at present are:
- Objects that were lined with asbestos insulation, asbestos blankets, and asbestos tapes are potentially dangerous when exposed for longer periods of time. Steam pipes, furnace ducts, and boilers that have been used for many decades may be potential sources of deadly asbestos fibers if and when they are damaged or removed from indoor spaces the wrong way.
- Floor tiles with resilient features such as vinyl, rubber, and asphalt may contain traces of asbestos material as well. Sanding tiles may also contain small amounts of asbestos, and so does the activity of sanding and scraping the backs of floorings may potentially release asbestos fibers too.
- Materials that are used for insulation around furnaces as well as wood-burning stoves contain high levels of asbestos too. Cement sheet and millboard paper were traditionally being used as efficient insulation materials. Once they undergo repair or a tear down, these materials may release asbestos fiber in the air. The sanding, drilling, and sawing of these existing insulation materials may prove to be a health hazard too.
- Decorative and soundproofing materials that are usually sprayed on ceilings and walls also contain asbestos fibers. Old materials which are starting to disintegrate as evidenced by crumbling and water damage may potentially release the deadly fibers too. Processes such as scraping, drilling, and sanding of the materials mentioned earlier should be done by professionals only.
- Damaged and worn out seals of door gasket furnaces as well as coal stoves and wooden stoves have the potential to release massive amounts of asbestos fibers too.
- The joint and patching compounds used for surfaces such as walls and ceilings as well as textured paints contain high levels of asbestos fibers, which may then be released during drilling and sanding.
- Although roofing, shingles, and sidings that contain asbestos cement are less likely to release asbestos fibers, tearing them down by means of cutting and drilling will most assuredly release the asbestos fibers in the air.
The artificial embers and ashes that are used in combination with certain appliances such as gas-fired fireplaces, as well as products like ironing board covers, stove-top pads, and fireproof gloves contain high levels of asbestos too.
- Asbestos may also be found in certain parts of transportation vehicles such as brake pads, clutch facings, gaskets, and automatable brake linings.
The Most Common Asbestos Hazards at Home
- Houses that were built between the decades of 1930 and 1950 typically used asbestos as a great material for insulation.
- Roofing systems and shingles of hold houses contain high amounts of asbestos cement.
- Patching compounds that were mainly used in ceiling joints and wall joints contain asbestos too, and so did textured paints that were manufactured before the 1970s.
- The artificially manufactured ashes and embers used in combination with gas-fired fireplaces contain small, but deadly levels of asbestos.
- Older products and appliances such as stove-top pads feature asbestos compounds too.
- The flooring and walls that surround wood-burning stove were typically sealed in with materials that contain asbestos, such as millboard or cement sheets.
- Asbestos may also be found on older vinyl flooring and tiles, as well as in the back of vinyl sheet floorings and adhesive products.
- The steam pipes as well as heating systems of older houses are coated with an asbestos material, or was covered with some form of tape or blanket that contained asbestos.
- Asbestos insulation may also be found in coal and oil furnaces as well as door gaskets.
What to do Upon Detection of Asbestos at Home
If you suspect the presence of asbestos ay home, do not panic. Getting anxious may only result in making rash decisions that can mean higher risk of inhaling asbestos fibers. According to professionals, it is best to leave the materials containing asbestos fibers alone, so to avoid its release. If the material, appliance, or equipment containing asbestos is in good condition, the potential for the release of fibers is minimal to none. Bear in mind that asbestos that remains intact does not pose any health hazard. To ensure safety at home, it is recommended to inspect the material regularly for damage, tears and abrasions. Never touch the asbestos-containing materials, but instead opt for a close visual inspection. The release of asbestos materials will only occur if the materials often experience rubbing, handling, hitting, or exposure against external factors. Extreme vibration or high air flow may also result in the release of asbestos materials.
Once a small damage is identified, it is best to limit the access to the area where an appliance or equipment is installed. Immediately get rid of damaged asbestos-containing materials such as stove-top pads, ironing board covers, and worn out asbestos gloves. For safe removal of asbestos, seek the expertise of local health and environmental agencies so you can properly remove them from the premises. Obtain the expertise of professionals if you are planning to make repairs and remove slightly damaged asbestos materials out of the home. In addition, it is also recommended to obtain professional inspection to detect the presence of asbestos fibers.
Ways on How to Properly Identify the Presence of Asbestos at Home
There is no way that an average individual can expertly detect the presence of asbestos, unless an appliance or equipment has proper labels on them. If you are unsure whether a material contains asbestos, experts suggest that you treat it as if it contains asbestos. You may also obtain the expertise of professional inspectors to accurately detect the presence of asbestos at home. Professional inspectors have the knowledge as well as the equipment to detect and analyze the presence of asbestos in an efficient and safe manner.
Never attempt to take asbestos samples by yourself. If you opt to take samples, take the necessary precautions to avoid the release of asbestos fibers. Materials that contain asbestos fibers, but are in excellent condition should be left alone. Only those that have suffered from damage should be removed, but by professionals only. Professionals boasts experience, skills, and ample knowledge in the proper removal and handling of asbestos, thus homeowners should obtain their services instead of doing DIY sampling and analysis. Professionals observe the following measures when handling materials that contain asbestos:
- Ensure that no other person is in the room when obtaining samples
- Wearing of disposable gloves is imperative. Washing of hands after procurement of samples is a must too.
- It is recommended that all heating and cooling systems are shut down when obtaining samples to minimize the spread of asbestos fibers.
- Obtain enough samples for accurate analysis.
- Install plastic sheeting on the flooring of the area to be sampled.
- Spray the material with water or detergent mist to minimize the release of asbestos during sampling.
- Only cut a small piece from the entire depth of the material suspected to contain asbestos. Use a small knife or a corer when obtaining samples. Place the sample inside a clean 35-mm flm container, a glass vial, or a quality resealable plastic bag.
- It is important that the container is sealed or closed tightly to avoid release or leakage.
- Once sampling is done, immediately dispose of the plastic sheet that covered the floors. It is also recommended to clean the area that was sampled with a damp towel. Once analysis is done, dispose the samples following state and local protocols.
- Proper labeling of asbestos sample is a must. Make sure to indicate the date and place where the materials were obtained.
- Seal the area where the sample was obtained with a piece of duct tape to avoid the release of remaining asbestos fibers.
- Immediately send the sample to a laboratory that specializes in the analysis of asbestos, and is well verified by the National Laboratory Accreditation Program or NVLAP under the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST.
Asbestos Problem Management
Only asbestos professionals who underwent rigorous training in the handling and management of asbestos material should be sought for proper disposal of materials that contain asbestos. The type of professional will depend mostly on the type of product, or the type of management that needs to be implemented to ultimately solve the problem. It is also ideal to obtain the services of a general asbestos contractor, or a professionally trained individual to manage materials that contain asbestos.
Professionals that specialize in asbestos management typically implement the following activities:
- Obtain samples of materials that are suspected to contain asbestos
- Assess the condition of materials that may contain asbestos
- Provide corrections and repairs that are needed to safely dispose asbestos from the home
We highly stress the fact that materials containing asbestos, but are in excellent condition should never be sampled, unless they are more likely to be disturbed. Hire the services of professional asbestos removal or abatement agencies to safely and quickly remove asbestos materials.
Companies that specialize in asbestos management offer all-in-one packages that include testing, analysis, and correction. However this is the case, it is still best to hire two different companies; one for inspection and assessment, and the other a firm that will implement asbestos correction. This should be done to avoid conflict of interest, which may mean significant savings to clients.
The US Federal government offers regular and ongoing trainings for professionals that focus on asbestos management. In some states, local governments offer and require training and certification courses to ensure superior quality services. Homeowners should always ask asbestos professionals for documents that signify their completion and certification of both federal and state-approved training courses. Professionals you seriously consider to work in your home should be more than happy to present their proof of training or licensing, so you can rest assured safe asbestos management. You may also check local health agencies as well as regional EPA branches as they have listings of certified asbestos professionals in your city or locale.
Never forget to check the credentials and reputation of a professional before obtaining their services. Only do business with professionals that have the right level of training and years of experience in asbestos management. Reputation is also an important factor when choosing between asbestos professionals, so make sure to check theirs within their field of industry. It is also recommended to verify their service from previous clients. Find out if the quality of their services are satisfactory or otherwise. Lastly, always ask for quotes from two or more professionals, so you can choose the best firm that offers quality at affordable rates too.
Despite the fact that private residential properties are generally not covered by the regulations that apply to public structures, an asbestos professional should still implement management procedures that are taught in both federal and state-approved training courses. Homeowners should be careful when dealing with possible, false and misleading claims by some asbestos consulting firms and agencies. As mentioned a few times earlier, materials that contain asbestos, but are still intact and are in excellent condition, should not be removed or disrupted altogether. There are however professionals that claim it is but necessary to removal all materials that contain asbestos, thus leading to more costs on the part of homeowners. There are also firms that have removed materials improperly, thus exposing homeowners and their families at risk of being exposed to a deadly health hazard. In order to avoid such problems, be aware of the different services available to you, and equip yourself of the procedures as well as the precautions involved in asbestos management.
In the case of analysis and abatement of asbestos found in roofing, shingles, and sidings, you may also need to obtain the services of building contractors with in-depth knowledge in the handling, removal, and replacement of structures that contain asbestos. In general, roofing and flooring contractors are exempted from state and local licensing requirements mostly due to the fact that they do not implement asbestos correction activities.
Professionals should consistently use protective equipment and apparel when removing asbestos-containing automobile parts such as brake pads, linings, gaskets, and clutch facings. Fortunately, latest models of these equipment do not contain asbestos anymore.
If you are seriously planning on hiring the services of a trained All Star inspector, make sure to observe the following tips:
- The inspection should include a comprehensive visual inspection, and the safe and expert collection of samples for lab analysis. Once the presence of asbestos is identified, make sure that the inspector provides you with accurate written evaluation that features full description of location, date, as well as the extent of damage to a material. Lastly, an HIAS inspector should provide you with recommendations for proper management, prevention, and correction.
- Make sure that the asbestos inspection company you hired conduct regular visits at home to ensure that the correction agency is following the right set of procedures and requirements. The inspector should also perform a thorough check after correction has been made to guarantee that the problem is managed properly, and that the area is left safe and clean too.
When hiring a corrective-action agency, these guidelines need to be followed by homeowners:
- To ensure proper and efficient correction of asbestos problem at home, do not forget to check in with your city’s local air pollution control board; the agency primarily responsible for ensuring the safety of workers, as well as the Better Business Bureau. Verify if the firm you are seriously considering on working with have had past infractions or safety violations.
- Make sure that the correction-action contractor only use the right type and quality of equipment and tools for the job. Professionals should only be earring approved masks or respirators, gloves, and protective clothing and apparel.
- Make sure to verify the safety regulations during asbestos-correction and management from your state and local health department, from the EPA regional office, and from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in your region. In addition, make sure to draw and secure a contract that enumerates the overall work plan, including cleanup, as well as application regulations that a contractor must follow at all times. Notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures should also be specified in the contract. As soon as the project ends, secure a written guarantee from the contractor that all procedures and requirements were implemented to the letter.
- Make sure that the contractor does all the necessary safety precautions to effectively avoid the spread or tacking of asbestos fibers in other unaffected areas of the home. The work area should be sealed properly from the rest of a home’s interior by use of plastic sheets and duct tapes. It is also recommended to turn off both heating and air conditioning system during asbestos correction. For smaller, less intensive corrections, such as in the case of pipe insulation replacement and removal, the use of plastic bags should be more than enough to ensure safety. Pipes should be sealed with duct tape, and should be immediately disposed once the job is completed.
- Verify that the contractor makes use of a wetting agent such as water or detergent solution with a sprayer when working with asbestos containing materials. Wet asbestos fibers do not travel in the air, as opposed to dry asbestos fiber that can travel through the air upon release.
- Once sample has been taken from a material, make sure that the contractor does not break them into smaller pieces, as this action releases fibers into the air. When removing piper insulation that were originally installed in pre-manufactured blocks, contractor must remove them in complete blocks or pieces to avoid damage and eventual release of asbestos fibers.
- Once the asbestos correction activity is completed, make sure that the contractor cleans the area by use of wet mops, rags, or sponges. Ideally, a contractor should use high-efficiency particulate air vacuum cleaners for an easier and more effective clean. Regular, household vacuum cleaners should not be used in the cleaning up process, as this may introduce the fibers when used for normal cleaning chores at home. All disposable equipment, tools, and clothing used in correction process should be placed in leak-proof and sealed bags for proper disposal. After cleanup, the work site should be free from dirt, dust, and debris. It is imperative to conduct air monitoring after correction to ensure that there is no trace of asbestos in the air, and is a requirement as guarantee that a contractor implemented the correction properly. The assessment should be implemented by a third party, to ensure an unbiased evaluation.