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The greatest asbestos risks in an old home

Before the 1980s, asbestos was often used in home-building materials. These include things like asbestos tile and insulation. Since it was tough and fire-resistant, it seemed like a terrific material -- until it became clear that it could lead to deadly issues with lung cancer, mesothelioma and the like.

So, if you have an older home that dates back to the 1980s or before, you may have asbestos in the house. This is especially true, of course, if no renovations have been made over the years. But when do you face the greatest risks?

As materials break down

The true risk of asbestos lies in the breakdown of the products containing the material. Cracked and broken tiles, for instance, can then release the asbestos particles into the air.

Homes break down over time, even when you take care of them. Many people still live in houses build in the 1920s and 1930s. There is nothing that can be done to prevent things from breaking down to some degree, and that means the risks of asbestos exposure can get greater as it happens.

When doing a renovation

One of the biggest risks, for homeowners, is when they take on renovation projects on their own. If they don't know that the tiles in a bathroom contain asbestos, for instance, they may simply start breaking them out with a 10-pound hammer. Each shattered tile represents a greater risk. That may be far more than just mortar dust that they keep breathing in.

Homeowners could also face risks even when they hire a company to do the job. If they live in the house during the renovation and the company does not properly identify asbestos or fails to take the steps to control it during the demolition, anyone who breathes in those particles may find themselves at high risk.

It's hard to identify asbestos

Experts do warn that asbestos is not always easy to spot, at least not for those without official training. Knowing that it is often in tile and insulation is just the very beginning.

There are tactics people can use if they feel concerned. They can hire an asbestos removal company to go through the house with proper equipment. They can send samples to a lab to find out if they really contain asbestos or not.

However, the difficulty in identification, and the fact that asbestos used to be so widely used in homes people still live in today, makes it very dangerous indeed.

Your options

If you do suffer from asbestos exposure, at home, at work or in another setting, it can lead to lengthy and expensive treatment. It may be fatal. Make sure you know what legal options you have.

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