Asbestos in Your Home, Part One

As usual, many of the “scary” things in our homes are scary because we don’t have any background / knowledge about them. One of those “things” is ASBESTOS – a mineral made out of microscopic fibers.

If we are exposed to a high concentration of asbestos airborne fibers, there’s a greater risk of developing asbestos related diseases, and no safe level of asbestos exposure has yet been determined.

Those diseases are:

– Lung, colon and stomach cancer

– Mesothelioma – A rare form of cancer of the chest lining and the abdominal cavity. Fatal.

– Asbestosis – The lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue, which reduces their capacity.

But … having asbestos at home doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going to get cancer – REMEMBER – just because you do have asbestos containing material at home does not mean that your body has been contaminated and you’re going to get cancer – asbestos is not radioactive! So, please relax, look at the pictures, and let me do some explaining.

I’ll start from the things that you SHOULD NOT DO when dealing with asbestos containing materials (any material suspect of containing asbestos should be treated as such, unless otherwise proofed by the laboratory testing):

1. Don’t scrape, drill, sand, saw, break, crush or damage asbestos containing material in any way

2. Don’t use abrasive pads, brushes, powers strippers on an asbestos floor, especially on dry surfaces

3. Don’t attempt to level asbestos flooring or its backing by sanding its surface down

4. Don’t sweep / vacuum debris that might contain asbestos

5. Don’t place any asbestos containing materials in your garbage can

There are several materials in our homes that might contain asbestos fibers, and there are more chances of contamination from some than from the others.

And the winners (by my statistics) in Chicago land are:

#1. Asbestos reinforced floor tiles – full bouquet of colors – most popular 9″x9″ (almost 100% of those have a high percentage of asbestos) but other sizes too. They’re often used in older basements, multi unit buildings, and many other places – they were cheep and easy to maintain. Other flooring materials reinforced with asbestos fibers are sheet linoleum and glue used to secure it to the sub-floor. Undamaged, properly secured material doesn’t present any health hazard, but it might become problematic and quite expensive to deal with if we decide to remove it (assuming that a professional is doing it safely for you). But wait, if it is not absolutely necessary to remove it, there is another way – it can be sealed (encapsulated), and another type of flooring material installed over this surface, which should save you some money.

Any servicing of the asbestos containing material (repair or removal) should be performed only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely.

#2. Acoustic ceiling tiles – another popular basement decorative element which might contain asbestos fibers. It mainly applies to the tiles permanently secured to the ceiling, and not likely to the removable (suspended ceiling) tiles made of fiberglass or cellulose. The same principle applies: if it’s not damaged, it will not cause any harm.

#3. Some types of insulation on: water pipes, hot water / steam heating system pipes and forced air systems air ducts, furnaces and boiler insulation.

On water and hot water / steam heating system pipes, asbestos may be installed along the straight sections and / or elbows only – for as long as it’s intact, there is no danger. However, because of condensation, leaks and physical impact, damage may occur. If you see deteriorated, flaking or powdery material falling off the pipes, you should get a professional to sample it and perform either removal or repairs if necessary.

Forced air heating system ducts are critical for a very important reason – some of them have interiors lined with thin asbestos containing paper, or thick, cardboard-like paper has been used as a duct wall. If it is damaged or deteriorating, it will produce asbestos airborne fibers; every time your forced air system is activated, they will be distributed through your house.

Before hiring a duct cleaning company, it would make sense to ensure that there’s no asbestos containing material inside the air ducts!

Another potential risk is with the air ducts embedded into the concrete slab. There are a few types of pipes used for this purpose and one of them is called a Transite Pipe … but for that and more on asbestos look for Asbestos in your home part 2

Get more valuable information about maintaining your house, preparing it for sale, and correcting most common problems the right way from the beginning. Learn how to personally inspect the most critical areas of your property, and let Dariusz Rudnicki to be your guide at

Dariusz is a licensed Illinois home inspector who has been in this business for ten years, crawling through the areas you’d newer expect that even exist in your house … just to let you now if everything is working properly.

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14th September, 2010   Inline

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