When Is Asbestos Dangerous?

It is widely understood now that asbestos should be avoided due to its dangers, but what is less clear to many is, in what ways is it dangerous, and how can it be avoided? In 1989 the United States Environmental Protection Agency publicly acknowledged the dangers of asbestos exposure by banning its use in industrial materials. By then, the link had been firmly established between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, a cancerous lung disease for which there is no cure. However, due to its common inclusion in a wide variety of materials, asbestos is present in many older homes and buildings that were constructed prior to the ban.

The presence of asbestos is not in itself a danger necessarily; it is the exposure to asbestos fibers that may be harmful. To be on the safe side, if there is reasonable cause to suspect that asbestos may be present in your home or office building, consult an asbestos removal company, like an asbestos removal company in Los Angeles, CA. Their trained experts can determine if asbestos is likely present in inaccessible areas, as well as take samples from exposed materials such as broken floor tiles or drywall. In addition, a certified asbestos contractor can determine the optimum methods for mitigating or removing the risk of asbestos exposure.

Where might I find asbestos in my home?
Asbestos was a preferred material for durable, heat-resistant applications. When included in cement formulas, it enhanced the strength and durability. When included in insulation, it enhanced the cold and heat protection. When used in roofing, ceilings, and flooring tiles, asbestos increased their length of usability. Asbestos was also used in the automobile industry for the manufacturing of clutch and brake pads. However, the primary legacy of asbestos materials are often discovered in older buildings. The primary locations in which asbestos may be found are:

  • Wall and ceiling insulation
  • Soundproofing boards
  • Pipe insulation 
  • Ductwork connectors
  • Floor and ceiling tiles

Prior to undergoing renovations or demolition of homes or other buildings created prior to the 1990’s, it’s critical to consult an experienced asbestos contractor whether it will be a do-it-yourself job or one that will require professionals.

What happens if the asbestos is disturbed?
Asbestos disturbance is the primary danger. When the asbestos particles are released from a material, either by tearing it, shaking it, or even just moving it, the fibers separate from the material and become airborne. Once airborne, they can affix themselves to clothing, travel indefinitely, and contaminate anyone or any area that comes into contact with the clothing. If a person breathes in those particles or fibers, they are likely to lodge into the lungs. This may lead to a life-threatening lung condition in the form of cancer. Symptoms of cancer may not present until many years in the future, thus many who are exposed to asbestos do not immediately realize the harm. By then it is too late. Examples of how dangerous exposure may occur:

  • Removing asbestos-laden materials such as insulation or tiles.
  • Vacuuming asbestos.
  • Scraping, tearing, or sawing into materials that contain asbestos.

If your home or office may contain asbestos, consult a certified asbestos contractor before proceeding with any form of construction.

Thanks to Nielsen Environmental for their insight into when asbestos is dangerous.