If your home was built prior to the late 1980s, chances are it may contain at least some asbestos-containing materials. Prized for its insulating and flame-retardant properties, asbestos was a popular ingredient in ceiling and floor tiles, joint compound, patio materials, insulation, adhesives, “popcorn” ceilings, and a wide variety of common construction materials. While it is upsetting to think of toxic materials in your home, in many cases the best course of action may be to leave them alone.
Asbestos in the Home: What are the Risks?
Asbestos is most dangerous when it is friable, meaning it crumbles easily, forming small, inhalable fibers. These small asbestos fibers are known to cause cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos insulation, often used to cover pipes, can become friable when not properly covered. By contrast, patio materials or floor tile containing asbestos cement may present a much lesser hazard as they are not easily crumbled.
If you discover asbestos-containing materials in your home, do not attempt to remove them yourself. If they are intact and not giving off dust or otherwise deteriorating, your best option may be to leave them alone. The United States Consumer Products Safety Commission offers this advice for home owners: “If you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic! Usually the best thing is to LEAVE asbestos material that is in good condition ALONE.”
If you are concerned that asbestos-containing materials in your home may pose a threat, contact your local health department for a list of licensed asbestos inspectors in your area. Taking samples yourself may release hazardous fibers. In some cases, asbestos-containing materials can be safely encapsulated, sparing the cost and risks associated with removal. Should removal become necessary, hire a licensed asbestos removal professional, who will undertake proper safety precautions to ensure that your family is not exposed to harmful airborne particles.
Do it Yourself Asbestos Removal: A Bad Idea
In most cases, removing friable asbestos material on your own is not a good idea. In many states, do it yourself removal is illegal for commercial or rental properties. Some states require you to file an official notice before any work can begin. Check with your state or local health department before you begin any work.
In most circumstances, friable asbestos containing materials should only be removed by a licensed asbestos removal contractor. In some circumstances, non-friable materials may be safely removed by home owners. Carefully research the products in your home and the laws in your jurisdiction before beginning any projects, and take steps to prevent dust and maintain proper ventilation while you work. Follow safety guidelines such as those described in this pamphlet explaining proper removal of cement asbestos-board siding. Always dispose of any asbestos-containing materials according to the laws of your jurisdiction. Failure to properly dispose of these materials may subject you to civil or criminal liability.
Improper Asbestos Removal: What Can I Do If I Have Been Exposed?
If you or a family member suffers from asbestos-related illness due to improperly removed asbestos, you may be eligible for compensation. Although the connection between asbestos and cancer was well understood by the mid 20th century, adequate safety precautions were not taken to protect the public from the risk of airborne asbestos fibers, for decades. Contact an experienced asbestos litigation firm today, to discuss your options. Bergman Draper Oslund has decades of experience serving those who have been unnecessarily harmed by asbestos. Call today for a no cost-no obligation consultation.