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Owning Older Homes— What You Need to Know About Asbestos

Older homes offer a great deal of charm with their beautiful, antique looks and distinctive styles. However, many homes that were built before the 1980s are at high risk for containing asbestos. Read on to learn more about what asbestos is, the risks it can pose, and what you can do about it.

What Is Asbestos?

The term “asbestos” describes a naturally occurring group of silicate minerals that grow into fibrous formations with filaments that are easily released into the atmosphere as a result of friction. Asbestos was used in building materials for decades as a result of its flame retardant properties and its fibrous shape, which lent added strength and insulation to building materials.

Asbestos is still commonly found in building materials in old homes, including everything from wallboards, ceiling tiles, and pipe insulation to patching compounds and heat-insulating door gaskets on old furnaces. Fibers and particulate matter can also rub off and become airborne to contaminate more recently used materials such as insulation as well.

Health Risks

Asbestos poses the greatest health risk when its particles become airborne and are breathed in, which often happens as a result of building materials containing asbestos getting damaged. Unfortunately, many people don’t take the necessary safety precautions when handling asbestos-contaminated materials because they don’t realize how severe the risks are. In addition to causing discomfort in the form of a dry cough and shortness of breath, exposure to contaminated materials can be life-threatening as well. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a form of cancer which attacks the epithelial layer of cells, found in the abdominal cavity, heart and lungs.

How to Fix It

If you think you might have found asbestos in your home, contact a professional immediately for testing and evaluation. Not only do you probably lack the necessary training to deal with asbestos safely, but there are strict regulations in place regarding the handling of toxic materials as well. If materials containing asbestos are present in your home but remain undamaged and can be sealed away, your risk may be minimal. However, damaged or crumbling materials are very high-risk and will need to be professionally removed. Additionally, the surrounding area will likely need to be thoroughly cleaned and potentially re-sealed.

While asbestos used to be highly popular as a result of its durability, affordability, and heat-resistant properties, it is an extremely toxic material that can cause life-threatening conditions if released into the air and inhaled. If you suspect that your older home might have utilized building materials containing asbestos, look into professional testing and abatement immediately.

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