Airborne asbestos inside a building may be 10 to 100 times higher than outside. These indoor levels are typically 10,000 to 100,000 times lower than levels found in asbestos industry workplaces. Various cancers and lung diseases have been associated with asbestos.
How can Asbestos affect you? Perhaps the most typical problem associated with asbestos comes from airborne particles that are inhaled. When intact it is usually not a problem however when it is breaking down, deteriorating, damaged or disturbed it can become airborne. If this occurs it may require removal or sealing. Unfortunately with some older pipes, such as galvanized piping, they may wear out and have to be replaced which will disturb any asbestos covering them. So, the proper removal and sealing of asbestos are critical.
Common uses of asbestos in a home? There are a number of places where it can be used. Indoors one common use is found with pipe insulation on hot water heating systems. Often older heating systems such as boilers have this. The pipe is wrapped with asbestos-containing insulation and corners of the pipes, or elbows, have a mud, or plaster, concoction that contains it as well. Usually these are in homes that are 40 years of age or older. Other places where it can be found are siding, shingles, flooring material, and certain ceiling materials.
Asbestos can be found in:
a) sprayed or towelled on materials such as walls, ceilings and other areas,
b) insulation on pipes, boilers, tanks, ducts, and other equipment,
c) vermiculite insulation, and
d) other materials.
How dangerous is Asbestos? Unfortunately there are no immediate symptoms. Before the mid 1970’s most people with asbestos-related diseases (asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma) were exposed to high levels while working in asbestos related industries. The belief is, then, that the relationship between low levels of asbestos exposure will mean that only a small proportion of people will develop asbestos-related diseases. Chest and abdominal cancers and lung diseases are associated with asbestos. People who smoke, children and young adults are at a somewhat higher risk.
Common Materials Containing Asbestos in Buildings: Acoustical plaster, wallboard, ceiling tiles, vinyl floor tiles, textiles (cloth, blankets, felts, theatre & welding curtains, tubing, sheets, cord, rope, yarn, tape), paper products (corrugated, mill board), roofing felts (shingles, smooth & mineral surface), concrete-like products (extrusion panels, clapboard & shingles, pipe), and, thermal insulation (batts, blocks and pipe insulation).
What should you do if you suspect asbestos in a home? Lab testing can be carried out to ascertain if samples taken contain asbestos. If it is found, a control program should be initiated. It is likely, at some point in the future that a home, which contains asbestos, will have to be dealt with.