How to Check for Asbestos in Your Home

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Asbestos is a type of mineral used as a construction material. Because it’s fire-resistant and insulates heat well, asbestos been used for a wide variety of applications, including being woven into fabrics to make fire-resistant textiles. However, studies show that asbestos is a carcinogenic compound. Today, asbestos is banned in more than 50 countries because of its toxicity. It’s also widely believed to cause mesothelioma cancer and other chronic diseases.

Because asbestos used to be so popular as a construction material, most homes built before 1980 contain traces of this mineral. Asbestos was infused to floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roof shingles and flashing, siding, insulation, pipe cement, and joint compound between pieces of sheetrock. Even newer homes may contain traces of asbestos so it’s important to learn and understand how to check for this health hazard in your home.

How to Check for Asbestos in Your Home

Because asbestos is not visible to the naked eye, a visual inspection is not enough to check if your home contains asbestos. Asbestos is dangerous when it’s released into the air. The asbestos fibers will cling to home fixings, causing respiratory problems.

So to check for asbestos in your home, start by gathering suspicious dust or asbestos fibers. You will send the samples to a laboratory for analysis. A lab technician will use Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) or Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) to analyze the sample. These methods are the only ones approved by the National Institute for Standards and Technology. Also, you can go online to National Institute for Standards and Technology’s official website to check the list of accredited labs to do TEM and PLM analysis.

The American Lung Association also recommends homeowners to hire a professional certified asbestos inspector to assess the home and gather the samples safety. A professional inspector will gather the specimen and give you tips on how to contain or remove asbestos safely.

If say, you suspect that your home or rental apartment is tainted with asbestos, do not dust or vacuum the suspected area to clean it. This will only disperse the asbestos fibers into the air and you will end up breathing these irritants in. In addition, never aggravate any suspected areas even if you don’t see visible dust or fibers.

What to do if Asbestos is Present in Your Home

Dealing with asbestos will depend on where the offending mineral is found and the condition of the material. Friable asbestos can be reduced to a powder and become airborne. This makes friable asbestos extremely dangerous so never touch the material without proper guidance from a professional inspector.

Non-friable asbestos are tightly packed so they are not airborne unless they are sanded, sawed or cut. If the asbestos-laced material is non-friable, it can be isolated rather than removed from your home. Then it has to be monitored to ensure that the asbestos is contained. Removing the offending material is riskier especially when done improperly. For friable asbestos, you have no other choice but to remove the material. You need to call a professional asbestos removal service so they can come to your home and remove the mineral. During the entire process, the contractor will use an HEPA vacuum to suck up the powdered mineral as well as approved respirators, and disposable clothing to protect themselves from asbestos.

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