Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from diseases caused by asbestos. This is according to the EWG Action Fund. Asbestos is a group of 6 naturally-occurring mineral compounds found in building materials. It is possible that you heard some bad things about it or fear its presence in your home, as you should and for good reasons.
Asbestos exposure causes asbestosis a chronic lung disease. It also increases the risk of lung cancer, Mesothelioma, pleura, and laryngitis. Moreover, it is not easy to know if your home is contaminated or at risk of asbestos contamination. But with the right information, you can take a proactive stance against the danger it poses. As a homeowner, there are two important things to know, when to do asbestos testing and what action to take to keep you and your family safe.
More About Asbestos
The fibrous silicate mineral is found in more than 3000 building materials. Chrysotile asbestos, in particular, was widely used in building materials between the 1950s to 1990s. The materials found their way in tens of thousands of homes, commercial buildings, and industrial sites across America. During this period, asbestos testing was not as highly regulated as it is today. Consequently, the toxic minerals they contained devastated the lives of many American families whose loved ones became seriously ill or died as a result of exposure.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
It is a potential danger to you and your family members because long-term exposure can cause lung cancer and respiratory illnesses. It creates a health hazard when the fibers are disturbed and gets into the air. The fibers can release into the air when a manufactured product that contains asbestos deteriorates or is disturbed, e.g., by destroying or cutting the product. They can remain in the air for about 48-72 hours placing anyone within the surroundings in danger of inhaling or ingesting it. Breathing the microscopic airborne fibers into the lungs increases the risk of cancerous and non-cancerous conditions. Early detection through asbestos testing can help protect your health.
Health Effects of Asbestos
The microfibers are naturally resistant to fire, heat, chemicals, and electricity, therefore making them almost indestructible. The fibers tend to accumulate in human tissue over time from repeated exposure. Once inhaled or swallowed, the fibers get stuck along the respiratory or digestive tract. Those that the body fails to get rid off will remain permanently trapped. Inflammation and changes in the cells due to DNA damage may occur over time and can cause cancer or other illnesses. They include the following:
- Lung cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Non-cancerous asbestos-related conditions
- Pleural plaques
- Pleural effusion
Exposure to the fibers is the primary cause of mesothelioma and, according to the American Cancer Society, approximately 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. You may have even seen infomercials on TV about mesothelioma class-action lawsuits against companies. However, there are claims that the introduction of regulations in the 1970s for asbestos testing has helped in the decline of this rare disease. But, people are still falling ill and dying from cancers or other diseases that finally took their toll some 20 to 50 years later after the initial exposure.
How to Know if Asbestos is in Your Home
The fibers can release into your home from construction materials such as stucco, vinyl and linoleum flooring, and roof felt shingles. An asbestos worker who lives in your home can also transfer fibers trapped on their clothing or shoes. Breathing in the polluted air does not usually take effect on health until many years later when a chronic disease or illness develops. For example, pleural plaques can take 10 to 30 years to show symptoms. However, plaque can show up on a routine X-ray or CT scan. Nevertheless, here are some common signs of asbestos-related lung problems:
- Pleural plaques
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Pleural thickening
- Dry cough or wheezing
- Crackling noise when breathing
Since the microscopic fibrils cannot be seen with the naked eye, the best mode of detection is through asbestos testing.
When is the Best Time to Test for Asbestos?
In spite of the high number of asbestos-related diseases and deaths, asbestos is not banned in the US. You can find it in roofing materials, friction products, fireproofing materials, and other products being used every day. The EWG Action Group reported that diseases and death will continue as long as asbestos-ridden materials are being used.
Because of the high risk to health and life, it is very important to avoid exposure by testing your home at strategic times such as when doing demolitions, renovations, additions, or remodeling. This is especially important for homes built before 1990.
A qualified Edmonton asbestos testing company or licensed/certified surveyor can help you to properly and safely identify asbestos in your home. The testing professional should do a comprehensive inspection, take samples, and send them to an EPA-certified lab where they are tested for the toxic fibrils. You will then receive a report on the findings. If the test is positive, you will need to make arrangements to safely get rid of the contaminated products from your home. Note that some states allow do-it-yourself testing by homeowners. They can purchase an asbestos testing kit and follow the instructions.
Safely Removing Asbestos from Your Home
Asbestos-containing materials should be removed by a qualified contractor with the knowledge and experience in the safe removal of the contaminant from residential properties. Give the contractor all reports from the surveyor to ensure that all of the toxic materials are removed. If you're demolishing or renovating, the contractor will give you the green lift to start once it's safe to do so. This should be done by a written report and confirmation that all asbestos-containing products were removed.
Asbestos remains a lurking danger
Any level of asbestos exposure is considered harmful to health even though it usually takes many years of repeated exposure for illnesses to arise. Most U.S. companies quit using asbestos in the 1980s. By then, hundreds of thousands of buildings were constructed or renovated with asbestos-containing products.
This means that many families are still at risk of exposure or can fall ill from inhaling or ingesting the toxic materials over the years. According to the EWG Action Fund, massive asbestos exposures dating back to the 1960s through the 1980s are now starting to show up as mortality statistics today.
A professional asbestos testing company can help
If your home was built prior to the 1990s or you suspect it may contain asbestos materials, it wouldn't hurt to call in the professionals to conduct comprehensive testing and removal of the contaminated product.
You can still hire a professional to test regardless of when your home was built to ensure that no hidden dangers are lurking in your ceilings, flooring, and drywall. Bear in mind that although products manufactured with the toxic mineral may be present, the risk to health and life arises when the toxic microscopic fibers are released into the air.