Asbestos is a known human carcinogen and can cause chronic lung disease as well as lung and other cancers.
How can I be at risk when I am at home?
According to the EPA, “asbestos is only harmful when it is disturbed or damaged. You may want to have your home inspected for asbestos-containing materials by a trained and accredited asbestos professional if the following:
You are planning to remodel your home (remodeling can disturb building materials)
Your home has damaged building materials (like crumbling drywall and insulation that is falling apart)”
Requirements will vary by jurisdiction. Check with state and local environmental, safety and permitting agencies for specific requirements in your area.
Where can it be found in the home?
According to the EPA, the manufacture, importation, processing and distribution in commerce of these products, as well as some others not listed, are not banned. The list below does not include every product that may contain asbestos, but these are the most common. If broken or crushed, all asbestos materials will release fibers to the air.
- Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite
- Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Textured paint and patching compounds used on walls and ceilings
- Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
- Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
- Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Automobile clutches and brakes
What to do if it’s found in your home?
The EPA states, "If you think there may be asbestos in your home, don’t panic.
Asbestos-containing materials that aren’t damaged or disturbed are not likely to pose a health risk. Usually the best thing is to leave asbestos-containing material alone if it is in good condition.
Generally, asbestos-containing material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) will not release asbestos fibers.
Asbestos-containing materials may release fibers when they are disturbed, damaged, removed improperly, repaired, cut, torn, sanded, sawed, drilled or scraped. Keep an eye on asbestos-containing materials and visually check them over time for signs of wear or damage.
If you suspect material contains asbestos, don't touch it. Look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing or handling, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow.
For slightly damaged asbestos-containing material, sometimes the best way to deal with it is to limit access to the area and not to touch or disturb it. If asbestos-containing material is more than slightly damaged or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a trained and accredited asbestos professional is needed."
Asbestos Do's and Don'ts for the Homeowner
- Do leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone.
- Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos, including limiting children's access to any materials that may contain asbestos.
- Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material.
- Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by a trained and accredited asbestos professional.
- Don't dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
- Don't saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
- Don't use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on flooring that may contain asbestos.
- Don't sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing install new floor covering over it, if possible.
- Don't track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.
If You Have an Asbestos Problem
The EPA mentions, "If the asbestos-containing material is more than slightly damaged or could be disturbed, there are two types of actions that can be taken by trained and accredited asbestos professionals: repair and removal.
Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place.
- Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely.
- Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket.
Removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home will disturb asbestos-containing material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos-containing material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a trained and accredited asbestos professional. Improper removal may actually increase your and your family’s exposure to asbestos fibers."
Building owners, Property managers, & Maintenance staff
As a property manager, you should be aware if the house you are responsible for contains asbestos so that you can take the right precautions to protect yourself and your tenants/ potential buyers. It is highly recommended that all property managers or homeowners get an asbestos survey of their property to identify if asbestos is present and if it needs to be managed or removed. Read more about getting an asbestos inspection and what to expect from the process. If you hire any tradespeople to carry out work on the property, you should always provide them with a copy of the asbestos survey report before the work begins. If you know the property contains asbestos and you want to get it removed professionally, you should hire a licensed asbestos professional.
Zonolite Attic Insulation (ZAI) Trust
The ZAI Trust was created for the benefit of homeowners with the Zonolite brand of vermiculite attic insulation; a brand which unfortunately contained a small amount of hazardous asbestos. This trust fund is used to reimburse homeowners with a portion of their cost to remove or contain Zonolite attic insulation.
For eligibility requirements and more information: Read More