Asbestos is something commonly talked about in the news as an environmental hazard, but most homeowners do not really know what it is. Asbestos, quite simply, is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals. Silicate minerals – which take the form of tiny fibers – are the largest and most important group of minerals responsible for forming rocks.
Although asbestos mining began over 4,000 years ago, the fibers were a commonplace building and manufacturing material in the 19th Century. Asbestos was popular because it possesses excellent tensile strength and is resistant to fire, heat, electrical damage, and chemical issues. Equally important, though, was that asbestos was a very affordable material for thrifty carpenters.
Environmental And Health Hazards of Asbestos
Health Issues Associated with Asbestos
Unfortunately, while asbestos is an excellent and durable building material, a number of serious health issues are associated with the fibers. Mesotheliomas and cancers are extremely prevalent among both humans and animals that have been exposed to asbestos over a long period of time. More specifically, asbestos exposure is linked to a substantially higher risk of lung cancer.
Generally speaking, people who become ill from asbestos are individuals who are exposed to high concentrations of the fiber over a long period of time. Experts believe that asbestos-related illnesses are not related to single exposures to the fiber.
Other diseases associated with asbestos include: asbestos warts, pleural plaques, asbestosis, diffuse pleural thickening, and pneumothorax.
Asbestos Removal & Treatment
If you live in an older home, asbestos might be present in attic and wall insulation, roofing, sliding shingles, vinyl floor tiles (and vinyl floor adhesives), textured paints, sealing compounds, and various heat-resistant fabrics. Older hot water pipes are likely coated with asbestos.
Asbestos removal is only recommended for those who are highly trained professionals. If there is asbestos-containing material in your home, however, there are several steps you and your family can take to maintain your safety and preserve your health.
First, make sure to leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone, taking every precaution to ensure that you do not accidentally damage or disturb these materials. Also, keep family activities in affected areas to a minimum. Under no circumstance should you dust, sweep, or vacuum debris or material that might contain asbestos.
If you have an asbestos problem, there are two actions that licensed asbestos professionals take to clean your home. The most common solution to an asbestos problem is sealing. Sealing a property occurs by treating the asbestos-coated materials with a sealant that binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the fibers so that they cannot be released. Covering the asbestos is the other treatment solution, and simply means that professionals will place or wrap something around the pipes or materials that contain asbestos.
Obviously, these same professionals can completely remove all asbestos materials from your home. This is the most expensive solution to an asbestos problem, though, because it requires that you completely replace the pipes, materials, or paint.