Asbestos in houses
In a home, asbestos is most commonly assumed to be used as a covering for pipes and boilers. However, it was also commonly found in the following areas:
- Exterior siding products (Asbestos cement (transite) board siding and under-sheeting and even stucco),
- Window putty,
- Downpipes can be made of asbestos cement,
- Flooring (vinyl tiles and linoleum sheet flooring and flooring adhesive)
- Electrical outlets and switches
- Main electrical panel and older fuse boxes (each fuse wire has an individual asbestos flash guard)
- Gypsum board filling compound and patching and joint compound for walls and ceilings,
- Boiler and furnace insulation including the door and gasket covers,
- Furnace duct tape and pipe insulation,
- Heat reflectors for wood stoves,
- Insulation on older electrical wiring,
- Exterior deck under sheeting,
- Roof gutters and soffit boards can be made of asbestos cement,
- Roof felt and shingles,
- Attic insulation (vermiculite),
- Textured or stipple-coated walls and ceilings,
- Recessed and incandescent lighting (backing material),
- Acoustic tiles (popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s),
- Artificial fireplace logs and ashes and
- Asbestos pads under the fireplace hearth extension.
It should be noted that while asbestos has been present in our homes for many years it is not a health risk unless it has been disturbed either by mechanical damage or natural wear.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural mineral with unusual qualities that has been used by humans for the past 4500 years. It is strong enough to withstand high temperatures, chemical attack and wear. A poor conductor, it insulates well against heat and electricity. The crystals can become long, flexible, silky fibres that can be made into a variety of forms. It can be used as yarn or cloth and added to materials like cement. This combination of properties has made it a valuable product and used in hundreds of applications and products over the years.
What health problems are associated with Asbestos?
Asbestos poses health risks only when the fibres are present in the air that people breath. Asbestos fibres that are contained or encapsulated pose no health risks.
When the asbestos containing material becomes ‘friable’ (i.e. damaged to the extent that asbestos fibres become airborne) the asbestos fibres can be inhaled. Once inhaled, the fibres can become trapped in the lung tissues and ultimately lead to severely impaired lung function (asbestosis) and cancer of the lungs.
When can asbestos be a problem?
The main cause of asbestos fibre release is renovation work. Many people are unaware of the potential for asbestos in everyday materials because it doesn’t look like asbestos in many forms.
There are over thirty (30) different varieties of asbestos being used today. To determine is a product actually is asbestos and to ascertain what risk is involved, requires a laboratory analysis. If you do not know if asbestos exists in a particular product in your home, you may wish to have an experienced contractor inspect them. If the presence of asbestos is confirmed, the best procedure may be to seal (encapsulate) the surface so that particles will not be released into the indoor air.
Alternatively, removal of asbestos is a complex and expensive matter. It is best left to an experienced contractor, as maximum precautions must be taken to safeguard the workers and the home owners during the removal process.
If you are considering renovating a house that is pre-1990 it is recommended that you have an asbestos evaluation before any work is carried out.
Stonegate Home Inspections’ Services
Stonegate Home Inspections Ltd. offers an asbestos evaluation (as a subset of the safety inspection) for homeowners that are considering renovations or that may have concerns related to asbestos contamination in their homes or out buildings. In addition, Stonegate Home Inspections Ltd. is also able to take on asbestos abatement (i.e. removal or encapsulation) for both small and large jobs.
Please contact us for a free quote on either asbestos evaluation or asbestos abatement.
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