Asbestos Risk: Do You Have Asbestos in Your Home?

If your home was constructed before the 1970s, it may contain asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral made up of long, spindly fibers that are strong and flexible. Asbestos fibers are also very heat and flame resistant, so until the potential health effects were accepted, asbestos was used widely in a range of products, particularly those used near heat or flames.

Home building products that often contained asbestos prior to the 1970s, when asbestos started to be substituted, include pipe, duct and boiler insulation, ceiling panels, floor tiles, roofing materials, textured paints, electrical wiring, ironing board pads, pot holders and artificial fireplaces.

Asbestos is not a hazard while it is in good condition, but if asbestos becomes crumbly and the fine dust-like fibers become airborne, they can cause serious health effects, 15-40 years down the track. Asbestosis results from scarring of the lungs, caused by asbestos fibers lodging there. Asbestos exposure can also cause mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the chest, heart or abdominal lining.

If you believe you have asbestos-containing products in your home, don’t panic. Asbestos is not always easy to identify. The only reliable way to know if you have asbestos is to have it sampled and tested by professionals. You will also need professional advice on what to do with it, if it is asbestos. Removal may be tempting, but this is often where the greatest danger arises, due to the disturbance of the materials. It may be better to enclose or encase the materials instead. Removal or containment will need to be done by professionals trained and certified to do so safely, and who know appropriate disposal procedures.

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