When you are in the middle of an exciting renovation project for your home, the last thing you want to blow your budget on is removing asbestos. We understand how tempting it would be to paint over and simply pretend it’s not there.
Here’s the most important renovation tip you’ll receive: don’t cover up asbestos.
Over 60% of DIYers report having been exposed to asbestos in renovation projects and self containment
In fact, DIY’ers exposing themselves to asbestos has become so common that it is considered the “third wave” of asbestos-related diseases. The first wave was miners and transport workers in the mid 1800s where production of asbestos was at its peak during the Industrial Revolution. The second wave was workers using asbestos products from the 1930s through the 1960s until the Clean Air Act passed in the 70s.
Covering up asbestos is a temporary fix and not a good one. Paint and sealants that can be purchased at hardware stores or online might delay the threat of asbestos, but it certainly does not remove it from your home. If at any point in the future you cut or drill the painted asbestos you will expose your entire home. There are no DIY containment measures once asbestos fibers are airborne, and the cost is significantly higher than if it was removed properly the first time.
THE ASBESTOS REMOVAL PROCESS
Safely removing asbestos is a complicated process. Watch this quick video to see everything that goes into it:
Even without intentional cutting or drilling, over time paint dries and cracks and this can cause the asbestos fibers underneath to become friable (to crumble and be reduced to powder), thus becoming airborne within your home.
In Davidson, North Carolina the EPA issued a major asbestos cleanup for twenty homes surrounding what used to be the Carolina Asbestos Factory. Back between the 1930s and 1960s, people literally paid for asbestos to be delivered to their homes to cover their driveways or level their yards. Now, that asbestos is causing harm, so the EPA sent out guys in suits and gas masks to clean it up.
About 1.3 million people in the U.S. today are still exposed to asbestos in their work environment
These environments include construction, military, auto mechanics, insulators, plumbers, electricians, and even teachers.
How does asbestos affect so many industries?
Asbestos is a heat and fire resistant material that was used in most residential homes and commercial buildings between the 1940s and 1970s. It was used for insulating attics, heat pipes, roofing, tile floors, ceilings, and siding materials. Despite its durable qualities, asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma, which is cancer of the lungs.
90% of Mesothelioma cases are linked to Asbestos
This means that if you live in a house or operate a business out of a building built before 1980, you likely have an asbestos issue. It may not be affecting you at the moment, but it has likely affected the people that directly handled those materials years back.
Part of the lingering problem is that it is not always easy to identify which building products actually contain asbestos. And when it is found, it has to be contained instead of torn down – which will only make matters worse.
Asbestos in Public Buildings
As long as the mineral stays contained in its original building materials, it is basically harmless. It becomes an issue when the material begins to break down, or is manually disturbed through renovation or demolitions. This releases the fibers into the air, and recovering them is virtually impossible.
It turns out that asbestos in schools has been a concern for quite some time. According to the EPA, asbestos resides in around 132,000 primary and secondary schools in the U.S. This is an issue because minors are most at-risk for developing health issues caused by asbestos exposure.
As a home or business owner, there’s not a whole lot that you can do. It’s more of a matter of when it will get bad, and how to manage it when it does. The EPA has been taking steps over the past several years to limit the use of and exposure to asbestos. In 1989, the manufacturing, importation, and sale of products with asbestos was banned, however, it is still used in certain products, such as car brakes and clutches, and roofing materials.
Roofing products account for roughly 72% of asbestos use
Also, as an extension of The Clean Air Act, there are now requirements for safely handling materials containing asbestos. This focuses on building renovations and remodels, requiring a certified inspector to test the air and building structures.
These requirements also affect the sale and purchase of homes and commercial buildings. Full disclosure of property information is mandatory, and it is recommended that both real estate agent and potential buyer test for asbestos. This is a simple preventative step to avoid a potential lawsuit.
So yes, asbestos is still an issue.
It is an issue we created for ourselves years ago, and have been slow to correct. This being the case, it is important that homeowners, business owners, realtors, and construction workers alike are aware of the effects and the conditions for which asbestos can be exposed. Don’t wait for cracks in your ceiling or tile floors, hire an expert to come out and inspect your home or business before anyone else is exposed.
There have been about 45,000 American deaths due to asbestos-related diseases since 1979. There are between 2000 and 3000 new cases of Mesothelioma diagnosed every year. Asbestos exposure is very serious, so the most fundamental question you probably have about it is, “Does my home have asbestos?” (more…)