Asbestos in the Home

By: Eric Badgely

Many building products, over the years, have contained asbestos. Many of these products are still present in homes that were built prior to the mid-1980's. So What exactly should you know about asbestos? Take a look....

Homeowners fear the word 'asbestos.' The most common places to find asbestos are probably old asbestos-cement siding, old asbestos flooring or asbestos that was used as insulation on heating ducts and heating systems. The general guideline is that, as long as asbestos is confined - so the fibers cannot escape and become airborne, it is not much of a problem. Of course if, down the road, a remodel is in order any asbestos material has to be treated as hazardous waste.

There are two very common household products that might - or might not - contain asbestos. It is hard to guess. Those products are vermiculite attic insulation and popcorn textured ceilings. While vermiculite is a mineral that is different than asbestos, the problem is that vermiculite mined prior to 1991 came from a mine near Libby, Montana. The mine had a natural deposit of asbestos, which tainted some of the vermiculite with asbestos fibers. While it is not for sure that all of this insulation will have asbestos fibers, it is considered likely that it will. Basically, the EPA suggests that, if you have older vermiculite, leave it alone and do not disturb it. Modern vermiculite, since 1991, comes from three other facilities and is considered to have a low potential for asbestos contamination. Popcorn textured ceilings, installed up into the mid 1980's, might have asbestos fibers present.

If vermiculite insulation or popcorn ceilings are present in the home, to establish whether or not they contain asbestos, one must collect samples and send them off to a lab. Inexpensive lab tests will confirm the presence of any asbestos. For further information on asbestos or asbestos testing, you should visit the EPA website. The site is very helpful and has a number of guidelines and suggestions regarding general safety and the use or cleanup of asbestos building materials. Never take a chance on asbestos, a small test can make a huge difference in your health.

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