Asbestos is present in many public and commercial buildings, schools, houses, apartment buildings, and factories. These buildings, which were made with asbestos materials, were built before the mid-1970s and after World War II. In those days, asbestos was considered a miracle product, due to its incredible heat- and fire-resistant properties. Naturally, people wanted their homes and offices to be as safe as possible, so extensive use of asbestos-containing materials was standard practice.
Asbestos Used in Many Old Construction Products
Asbestos alone is not harmful; however, it can become dangerous if tiny asbestos fibers become airborne. Asbestos fibers were mixed with a wide variety of construction products used in older homes.
Examples of asbestos-containing materials include:
- Wood pulp
- Vinyl flooring or floor tiles
- Door gaskets (in coal and oil furnaces)
- Joint compounds used to seal wallboards
- Water heater blankets
- Pipe insulation
- Textured paints in ceilings and walls
- Siding shingles made of asbestos cement
- Walls behind stoves, heaters, and fireplaces
It is important that homeowners know if their homes were made with asbestos materials. If asbestos products in older homes are not damaged and remain in good condition, there is relatively low risk of asbestos exposure. However, if the paint is peeling off, for example, or if the cement is damaged, there is a higher risk of asbestos fibers becoming airborne. A building with asbestos fibers in the air can cause health problems for individuals who inhale those fibers. These problems can cause life-threatening illnesses like cancer.
Asbestos Banned as a Construction Material
Because of the increased awareness of the harmful effects of asbestos in the body, the U.S. has banned the use of asbestos as a construction material, and owners of old buildings with asbestos-containing products are encouraged to have them removed. If a home was built after 1980, it is safe to assume it has no asbestos in it, as asbestos in construction materials was more common prior to that date.
Asbestos Removal from Buildings
If you work or live in an older building, asbestos removal should be considered. While complete removal of asbestos from an aging building is ideal, it is not always the safest option. That’s because while attempting to remove the asbestos, building materials containing it may begin to crumble and break. If this happens, toxic fibers from the asbestos will be released into the air, creating a dangerous breathing environment. If the actual removal of asbestos will cause more harm than it would prevent, there are other techniques that exist. These techniques to remove asbestos-containing materials are designed to prevent asbestos fibers from going airborne. These include:
- Repair: When repairing damaged asbestos-containing materials such as the insulation around pipes, boilers, tanks, or ducts, they are wrapped with heavy tape such as duct tape.
- Encapsulation: This is the process of treating asbestos with a liquid compound called an “encapsulant.” The encapsulant provides a seal that prevents the release of fibers. Encapsulation is not appropriate if the ACM is deteriorated or the encapsulant does not adhere to the ACM.
- Enclosure: For enclosure, an airtight, impermeable, permanent barrier is constructed around the asbestos.
The removal and sealing of asbestos-containing materials should always be performed by a trained professional.
If you have questions about asbestos exposure or treatment, contact your doctor. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, you may have questions about your rights and legal options. A lawyer can answer any legal questions you may have. For more information and resources about asbestos and building materials or to contact a qualified attorney, please contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today.