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What are the dangers and health risks of asbestos in my home?

What asbestos is was recently discussed on this blog. In general, having asbestos in your home may not present a danger or a health hazard. Of great concern, however, is if harmful asbestos fibers are released into the home or other environment where asbestos may be found, as asbestos can become damaged over time and dangerous fibers can be released. Primarily in the past, asbestos was used as an additive to strengthen a variety of products and provide fire resistance and heat insulation.

There are a number of places asbestos may be found in your home. Asbestos may be present in siding and roofing shingles that are made of asbestos cement; houses which have asbestos insulation (typically built between 1930 and 1950); some patching compounds and textured paint used for wall and ceiling joints which were used before 1977; walls surrounding wood-burning stoves comprised of asbestos paper, cement sheets or millboard; vinyl flooring and the backing of adhesives and vinyl-sheet flooring; older hot water and steam pipes which may be coated in asbestos material or covered by an asbestos tape or blanket; within brake pads and some other types of automotive products; and in some other items you may have in your home.

Asbestos material that is intact does not necessarily present a danger, however, degraded asbestos material may easily crumble or if it has been disturbed may become a health hazard. The health risks from breathing in asbestos fibers that have been released can be significant. Illnesses and diseases that can be caused by asbestos include mesothelioma; lung cancer; cancer of the abdominal cavity; pleural effusion; and asbestosis which occurs when the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue. Because asbestos fibers can remain in the lungs for an extended period of time, it may be 20 to 30 years following exposure that symptoms are noted. Asbestos-related illnesses can be fatal.

When an asbestos-related illness, such as mesothelioma, has claimed the life of a loved one, family members may have options to consider, such as a wrongful death claim, to recover damages for the harm suffered. The safety of loved ones is a significant concern for most families which is why the legal process provides protections and resources when a loved one has been harmed.

Source: United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, "Asbestos in the Home," Accessed Dec. 17, 2014

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