Asbestos explained | what it is and what you need to know about it

Many of us live in homes that are quite old. Old homes are often times built with materials that are not always safe. We need to be aware of those materials and the health risks, so we can spot them and take care of them before they create bigger problems for our health. Asbestos is one of those materials that we need to watch out for, but what is it? And what should we know about it?

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of minerals that form a substance used in many building materials such as roofs, tiles, wall board and insulation. It was used because it is strong, flexible and heat resistant – so before we knew it caused health problems, it seemed like a great material.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos becomes dangerous when it breaks of and is in the air. This usually happens because it becomes damaged somehow, for example, a ceiling with asbestos breaks through or a pipe with asbestos insulation breaks down. When asbestos is in the air we can breathe it into our lungs. It then gets stuck in the lungs and leads to life threatening diseases such as Mesothelioma, a deadly cancer, or other diseases that cause shortness of breath, scarring in the lungs and other serious problems.

Where do I find asbestos?

Between 1940 and 1970 asbestos was often used in homes. Because of the qualities we previously mentioned – fireproof, strong, flexible, insulating, soundproof – asbestos can be found in many places in the home:

  • Insulation in pipes, furnaces and attics
  • Ceiling
  • Shingles
  • Siding and roofing tiles
  • Materials used for soundproofing
  • Some paints
  • Casing on electrical wires
  • Floor tiles
  • Garages

How do I check my home for asbestos?

If you are moving into an old home it is best to have a certified asbestos professional come and take samples. A visual inspection usually isn’t enough to tell. If you are renting, make sure to ask your landlord about asbestos and what they have done to guarantee there is no risk.

What if I find or suspect there is asbestos in my home?

Asbestos is generally safe if it is contained and not touched. If you think something has asbestos do not move or touch it – call a professional immediately. A professional will be able to tell you what the best plan to take is. There are different options depending on what they find and how serious it is.

It’s scary to think there may be something unsafe built into your home. But by understanding the problem, spreading awareness to your friends and family and getting help from the right places, it can be a manageable issue and you can keep your family – and neighbors – safe at home.

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