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Is it Time for Asbestos Testing in Your Home?

It’s not uncommon for homeowners today to assume that asbestos is a concern of the past. While it is true that asbestos insulation is not likely to be found in newer homes, it’s certainly possible for older homes to have asbestos in areas that may not be so obvious, which could result in unexpected health issues related to asbestos exposure.

The team at EHC Associates is a trusted source for asbestos testing and abatement in Lancaster County, Philadelphia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware and as part of our ongoing efforts to help homeowners decide if it’s time to take advantage of the service we offer, we have compiled a list of four warning signs that it may be time for asbestos testing in your home.

1. Having Recently Had Renovations Done

Asbestos does not pose a health risk if it’s undisturbed, even in older homes. It’s only when fibers get loose and become airborne that a problem exists. However, home improvement work can easily disturb older asbestos-containing materials, which is why homeowners who’ve recently renovated a home built before the EPA banned asbestos in the late 1970’s should have testing performed. Even some homes built during the 1980’s may still contain some asbestos in floor tiles, ceilings, pipe cement, and other products and materials. This is because the EPA didn’t extend the asbestos ban to include all newly manufactured products until 1989.

basement with asbestos being renovated

 

The following household materials installed before the late 1980’s may also contain asbestos:

• Vinyl tiles
• Vinyl sheet with millboard or paper
• Older, flat corrugated roofing
• Vent covers
• Older ceilings with asbestos cement sheets

 

2. Seeing Disintegrating Pipes or Duct Sealants

Even if a home has been recently renovated, all asbestos insulation or asbestos-containing materials may not have been removed, especially if a home has basement pipes that were untouched during renovation efforts. It’s also easy to overlook basement pipes because they’re often not visible.

But if disintegrating materials around your basement pipes are spotted, it’s time for a homeowner to have asbestos testing done. Similar issues may exist if you have older ductwork that was sealed with asbestos-containing materials.

 

3. Noticing Symptoms of Asbestosis or Mesothelioma

One of the dangers of undetected asbestos in homes is the possibility of developing serious asbestos-related conditions. Two of the most common ones are asbestosis and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease specifically related to expose to asbestos fibers.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Common mesothelioma symptoms include:

• General fatigue
• Unexplained weight loss
• Shortness of breath and/or chronic dry coughing

Common symptoms of asbestosis include:

• Loss of appetite
• Chest pain or tightness
• Persistent coughing and/or shortness of breath

man coughing with symptoms of mesothelioma

4. Having an Older Gas Fireplace with Fake Ashes

Because asbestos is extremely heat resistant, it was frequently used in artificial fireplaces to create fake embers and ashes. So, in homes with an older fireplace like this, it’s best for homeowners to err on the side of caution and have their home tested for asbestos. This also applies to homes with older furnaces that may have an asbestos coating in certain areas.

What Does Asbestos Look Like?

The fact is that most homeowners don’t know what asbestos looks like. The appearance of asbestos will vary based on what it was originally used for. For example, asbestos sprayed coatings like what may be found on the underside of roofs, in ceilings, or in walls as insulation basically looks like sprayed fire extinguisher foam. Homeowners might find asbestos in thermal insulation painted with bitumen, wrapped, or sealed with a coating of plaster. Materials like this tend to have a high fiber release risk when they wear down with age.

Once a popular choice for fire protection in internal partition walls and acoustic and thermal insulation, asbestos insulating board (AIB) may be seen in large blocks or tile-like pieces. It’s usually a plain white material. For instance, if AIB was used in an old fire door, it might become noticeable when the door’s exterior material chips or wears aware. Asbestos may also be found as:

• Textured, decorative coatings on ceilings and walls
• Paper or felt for that was used for general heat insulation or fire protection on things like roofing felt
• Asbestos-reinforced plastics on older toilets or staircases
• Thermoplastics used in floor tiles
• Insulating barriers on older circuit breakers
• Bitumen products made with asbestos

The Three Types of Asbestos Fibers

To further clarify what asbestos looks like, let’s look at the three types of asbestos fibers. Accounting for more than 90 percent of asbestos found in U.S. buildings, chrysotile asbestos fibers are white, flexible, and curly. Tremolite fibers can range in color from milky white to darker green fibers. These are also sharper-shaped fibers that are easier to inhale. Straight, needle-like amosite fibers can also become easily trapped in lungs. It’s also these brown-colored fibers that were once widely used in many asbestos-containing products.

Contact EHC Associates today to schedule asbestos testing if you think you may have this substance in your home. If asbestos is found, we can recommend appropriate, affordable abatement options.

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