Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rocks and it is a virtually indestructible fiber with excellent thermal/heat-retardant qualities. Because of its durability and thermal qualities, asbestos fibers were used as a binder and fire retardant in many construction products, including acoustical ceiling tiles; thermal insulation of boilers and pipes; steel fireproofing; asbestos cement boards, and pipes; cement asbestos siding and roofing; tile and sheet floor coverings; textiles such as curtains, aprons and gloves. 

Asbestos fibers are a health threat when inhaled.  The microscopic fibers can become lodged in the respiratory system and lead to asbestosis or scarring of the respiratory tissues. However, the fibers cause other diseases such lung cancer and mesotheliomas. Smokers, children and young adults are at greater risk.  The diseases have a long latency period (time elapsed for the disease to develop after exposure) of 5 to 10 years for heavy exposure, otherwise it can reach 20 to 40 years. Asbestosis causes disability and death by progressive lung disease.



Asbestos containing materials (ACM) are considered hazardous when they are friable.  Friable simply means that the material is fragile and can release asbestos fibers into the air. Because of the health risk associated with asbestos, its use in building materials was banned since 1978. Many older homes have asbestos insulation in walls and ceilings, wrapped around hot water pipes or in exterior shingles.


If you suspect there may be asbestos in your home, you should have a professional inspection. Generally, asbestos is considered a health hazard when the material is friable, that is, when it crumbles, releasing tiny fibers into the air.


Removal of asbestos can be an expensive process and must be conducted by trained and certified professionals. But the presence of asbestos may not be a health hazard by itself, and in some cases, an asbestos hazard can be isolated without removal. Asbestos should be removed and disposed of by a qualified contractor.  Most states maintain lists of qualified contractors. 


Contact the EPA or the state department of environmental protection for an updated list of qualified testing and or mitigation contractors. It is not recommended that homeowners remove the asbestos themselves due to the associated health risk. Subsequent to any remediation, an air test should be performed to ensure that no fibers remain.



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