Asbestos is commonly found in older homes. It is a naturally occurring mineral fiber found in rock and soil. Because of its strength and high-heat tolerance, it is used in a number of manufactured products and building materials including pipe and furnace insulation, shingles, millboard, textured paints, coating materials, and floor tiles. Although exposure to asbestos has been proven to cause health problems, most uses are not banned in the United States. For a list of banned products, visit the EPA’s website.
Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to:
- An increased risk of lung cancer
- Mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity)
- Asbestosis (a progressive and long-term disease that occurs where lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue)
After exposure it may take years before the health impacts are experienced.
The most common sources of asbestos exposure in the home:
- Deteriorating, damaged or disturbed asbestos-containing products such as insulation, fireproofing, acoustical materials, and floor tiles.
According to the EPA, elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur after asbestos-containing materials are disturbed by cutting, sanding or other remodeling activities. Improper attempts to remove these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos levels and endangering people living in those homes.
DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE ASBESTOS BY YOURSELF! IF YOU ARE UNCERTAIN WHETHER A MATERIAL CONTAINS ASBESTOS, LEAVE IT ALONE!
If you think there may be asbestos in your home it is best to leave it alone if it is intact. Any asbestos remediation work should be performed by a licensed specialist. Owners and residents must receive notification of asbestos when purchasing or leasing properties. If you are planning to remodel your home or if your home has damaged building materials (like deteriorated insulation), you may want to hire a licensed Asbestos Inspector to have your home inspected for asbestos-containing materials. The Massachusetts Department of Labor and Workforce Development maintains a list of licensed asbestos contractors.