What Are the Signs of Asbestos?

The family of minerals known as asbestos has been known to mankind since antiquity. The first mention of the fire-retardant stone appeared in an ancient Greek text written by Theophrastus – a student of Aristotle – who described a substance resembling rotten wood that “burned without being harmed when doused with oil,” according to an article in Scientific American.

By the 1800s, asbestos was being used in housing materials such as roofing and electric wire insulation – and its popularity only grew. During the housing boom that followed the Second World War, asbestos was an important raw material for construction products.

Invisible but deadly

Today, we know that inhaling tiny particles of asbestos can cause a number of diseases, including lung cancer. The product was banned for use in the USA in 1978 and Canada in 1986. Experts at the Ontario-based firm Healthy Environment can safely remove this product from your home. But how can you know whether this invisible villain remains in your home or workplace?

Where is asbestos found in the home?

The hazardous material is present in many different parts of buildings, according to the website for Asbestos Network, a group of attorneys specializing in asbestos litigation in the northwest United States. This handy diagram published on their website shows some of the trouble areas of a building.

Building exteriors

Common areas on the exterior of a building include:

• Shingles and siding made of transite, an asbestos-cement product

• Roofing felt used for waterproofing

Central heating

Furnaces, and the entire network of piping stemming from central heating, are frequently the site of asbestos. Here are some example:

• Pads inside furnaces

• The flue that conducts gas out of your furnace, along with asbestos taping in the air registers that release heat into the home

• The insulation around ducting and tape around return seams

• The insulation around pipes and the “mud” insulation on pipe elbows

• Fabric vibration-insulation joints

Trouble spots inside

Other trouble spots in your home’s interior include:

• Flooring tiles made from a blend of vinyl and asbestos

• Fuse-box insulation

• Plaster in the walls

• Attic insulation

• Artificial logs and ash made of asbestos-cement

Other areas include ceiling tiles and caulking around doors and windows. But a full list would be extremely long: there are more than 3,000 products known to contain asbestos, according to Healthy Environmental.

Assessing your building

“Asbestos Hazard: Do Not Disturb”: This kind of sign is often posted inside buildings where the material has been installed and not yet removed. That warning tells us the material can become airborne if crumbled or otherwise disturbed.

But without those kinds of clear indicators, how can you be sure? Experienced personnel trained in asbestos abatement can do an initial assessment. They will then take a sample to an accredited lab to detect the mineral objectively.

Get informed and stay safe.

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