Asbestos is a name given to a group of fibrous minerals that occur naturally. This thread-like substance is resistant to heat and chemicals, and it does not conduct electricity. Although banned in the late 1980s, it is a substance that has been used for many millennia. In fact, mummies were wrapped in an asbestos fabric to reduce decay.
Is Asbestos Still a Concern?
Yes. Asbestos has been commonly used in construction materials in the United States since the late 1800s. All houses built before the 1970s, and some during the `70s and `80s, pose a potential risk factor for asbestos exposure.
There are many different areas of your house they may contain asbestos, such as:
- Popcorn ceilings
- Insulation (all types)
- Linoleum backing
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Duct tape on furnace seams
Health Hazards of Asbestos
Asbestos itself is not harmful to the human body, but breathing the fibrous particles into the lungs can cause several harmful effects.
This is usually introduced into the body as a fine dust. Removing shingles from your home should not be a problem, but if those shingles need to be broken or cut, then the dust particles can settle into your lungs. Once in the lungs the fibrous mineral can cause;
- Ripping and scarring within the lungs
- Other cancers
Besides the more critical cases stated above, there are also symptoms that are less dire, and they include:
How to Protect Against Asbestos
In most states, it is not illegal to remove asbestos from your own home. However, many states, counties, and cities do have strict transportation and disposal requirements set into place, and these requirements are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Contractors are required by law to have the required tools, training, licensing, and certifications before starting a job requiring asbestos abatement. If you plan on removing the asbestos yourself, the first thing to do is to make sure there is asbestos present in your home.
Asbestos abatement companies are located in every major city. You can simply take a piece of the material you wish to remove and have one of these companies test for asbestos. If you decide to remove it yourself, then the main concern is to limit the amount of dust. Tools required for abatement will vary depending on what you are removing, but main tools to consider are:
- Respirators with a p3 filter
- Coveralls that are rated for asbestos
- Boots that are rated for asbestos
Also, make sure there is good ventilation in the area you are working, but at the same time, you should restrict as much dust flow as possible. After the job, make sure to shower and thoroughly wash all clothing.
If you believe you have inhaled asbestos, contact the UPMC Pittsburgh Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.