Asbestos exposure can be responsible for many conditions that range in severity. Because asbestos exposure is deemed such a threat to anyone’s health, materials and structures containing asbestos have been banned in 55 countries within the last four decades. However, some countries still import materials that contain asbestos, and many companies turn a blind eye to the dangers it possesses. Because older homes can still contain asbestos within their structures, harmful exposure still occurs today and precautions usually take place to circumvent these dangers. Because asbestos can be prevalent in older homes, a hazardous materials assessment usually takes place before renovation or demolition.
Find out why you should have asbestos testing completed in your home if you think you have been exposed.
What is asbestos
Asbestos is a group of natural mineral fibres that are usually found in rocks. Due to its wide-ranging accessibility, how it was easy to mass-produce, and its low costs, it was often used as a material to build homes and public buildings. Many buildings in numerous different countries that were built before 1980 used asbestos in the floor and ceiling tiles, roof shingles, and wallboards. Today, it is no longer a commonly used material in buildings, but in some older homes and public buildings, the substance can still be found wrapped around hot water pipes and water boilers. Further, asbestos can also be traced in cement flooring.
Exposure and potential health problems
When asbestos is dormant within a home or building, it doesn’t prove a significant risk. But when asbestos is released into the air and is breathed in, it can become a serious threat as it can become lodged into your lungs and remain there–eventually causing physical ailments. When asbestos stays in the lungs, it can cause large amounts of inoperable scarring and harmful inflammation. Long periods of active asbestos exposure can leave you at risk for a variety of health concerns that include:
- Asbestosis or scarring of the lungs
- Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer
- Lung cancer
These serious health risks will depend on the longevity of the asbestos exposure and the pre-existing conditions of the person exposed to it. If you are a long-time smoker or have a history of suffering from chronic lung conditions, there is a greater risk of developing these asbestos-related diseases.
Reasons for testing
In order to avoid the asbestos-related diseases that can develop, testing is paramount. Many scenarios and situations should prompt you to test for asbestos. You should test asbestos if you do the following:
- Demolishing a home built before 1990: If you are demolishing a home that was built before 1990, you should contact professionals to do asbestos testing on all areas of the house. If you begin to demolish before testing and disturb dormant sites that contain asbestos, you could release it into the air and become exposed to it. Since asbestos is not visible to the naked eye, getting professional testing is the safest route.
- Removing debris after an accident: If a home or building sustains any damage that culminates in falling debris and accidents, you should get it tested for asbestos before pursuing any clean-up.
- Buying or renting a home: Before you lease or purchase a home, you should ask the real estate agent or potential landlord about the materials in the house that might contain asbestos. Because it is nearly impossible to spot asbestos yourself, contacting a professional technician to decipher the extent of the asbestos within the home is strongly advised. Older homes containing undisturbed asbestos are purchased and should be retested every 6 to 12 months to ensure that it is not activated.
- Renovating a home built before 1990: Many homes built before 1990 can contain minimal traces of asbestos. It is recommended to get it tested before renovating an older house just in case there is more there than you originally bargained for. Because it poses such a risk when inhaled, you should always get the home tested by professionals and get a hazardous materials assessment completed to make sure you are at no risk of dangerous asbestos exposure when renovating.
If you reside in an older home, whether you’re renting or purchasing, you should perform a visual check on the house’s piping, insulation, and air ducts. Although you cannot spot asbestos yourself, you can visibly see if pipes or air ducts are made from materials that could contain the substance. If any of these areas of the home seem to be deteriorating, do not touch them, keep your pets and household away from these parts of the home, and contact a professional to inspect them.