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I found asbestos in my home, now what?

On this blog, we often discuss scenarios in which people are exposed to asbestos on the job. The problem of negligent employers and manufacturers is that there are far too many of them, and people often develop asbestos-related diseases after having been exposed to airborne asbestos at work decades ago. However, the threat of asbestos exposure does not stop once you clock out of work. In fact, many homes that were built up until the mid-1980s were built using asbestos.

It can be important for tenants and homeowners to understand that there is still a risk of being exposed to asbestos, even if they are not working at mills, on ships or in construction. Because asbestos was used in materials such as drywall, roofing shingles, plumbing and floor tiles up until 1986, it still hides in these same materials today. Understanding what to do if asbestos is identified at home can be crucial.

When it is intact and undisturbed, asbestos does not present much of a threat. However, when it is disturbed by construction or starts wearing away and crumbling due to the passage of time, the dust that is released into the air can be very dangerous. The tiny particles can be breathed in and could cause serious damage to a person's lungs, sometimes causing mesothelioma or other types of cancer.

Homeowners and property owners must take the proper steps in identifying asbestos, evaluating the threat level it presents and having it removed safely if necessary.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends having a trained professional inspect a home for asbestos. According to the EPA, if asbestos is found, the material either needs to be left alone or removed. If the asbestos is undisturbed, homeowners should either leave it alone or have a professional seal or cover the material to prevent future release of asbestos. If asbestos needs to be removed, it is vital that the work is done by an accredited and responsible removal company.

Keeping a home free of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure can be a top priority for many homeowners. But it is important that they do so in a thorough and safe manner.

Source: Consumer Affairs, "What to do when you find asbestos in your home," Mark Huffman, March 7, 2013

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