How to Identify Asbestos in your Home

By Elsie Goycoolea. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Identify Asbestos in your Home

Recently, asbestos has been identified as a highly toxic mineral that may be responsible for mesothelioma cancer. These news has prompted many countries form banning asbestos from home building practices. Nonetheless, asbestos was once applauded for being a highly heat resistant material found in chimney flues, water pipes and under tiles among other uses. During house renovations projects, home owners may identify possible sources of asbestos that may pose serious health risks.

In this OneHowTo article we explain how to identify asbestos in your home.

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When is asbestos a health hazard?

Asbestos is a natural mineral that becomes dangerous when airborne. Usually, higher levels of asbestos are found in older houses as tear and wear from usage occur. Asbestos is toxic when fibers are released into the air and are inhaled by a person. If there is a leakage or damage in the home’s insulation system, this can be prompting the release of fibers. Additionally, renovations that include breaking apart tiles, sanding plaster or scraping old coatings that contain asbestos may be contributing to the release of these fibers.

How to Identify Asbestos in your Home - When is asbestos a health hazard?

Can I identity asbestos in my home?

It is highly unlikely that you can visually pinpoint a harmful source of asbestos. Professional companies employ the use of Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) to identify asbestos in a sample. It is recommended that you contact a trained professional to come to your house and take a fiber sample to be analyzed in a laboratory. By taking a passive stance you are indeed protecting yourself from a health risk.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers on its website a list of approved contractors that provide asbestos testing services. For the test, the contractor will be dressed with protective equipment and will wear an air filter mask to proceed safely with the sample taking process. You will be required to turn off the air conditioning system and step outside of the room. The sample will be taken to a laboratory that is approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

What should I do if my home has asbestos?

While it is unlikely that newer buildings are built using asbestos containing materials, there is a high likelihood that houses built before the 1980s employed the use of asbestos. Finding asbestos after a laboratory testing means that there is a tear or damage around the house structure that may be releasing the fibers. Repairing the damage or isolating it from the rest of the house may be the best solution. The more repairing, removing and replacing of materials that is done, the greater the amount of fibers potentially released into the air.

If the asbestos reading is high, then it may be worth contacting a health professional alongside a construction specialist to weigh in your options. Removing all asbestos materials from the home might pose a higher health risk than repairing the leakage. It is important, to continuously inspect for any asbestos harmful sources and take appropriate precautionary measures.

How to Identify Asbestos in your Home - What should I do if my home has asbestos?

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