If you or your family is concerned that your home may contain asbestos which may have been released into the environment, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce any immediate risks and to ensure that your home is made safe for the future.
Many homes constructed before the 1980’s, and some homes constructed after this time, would have been built with materials that contained asbestos. At that time, although the risks of asbestos were well documented, many building companies continued to use asbestos products. If the area of the home that contains asbestos has not been damaged and remains in good condition, it should not pose any risks. It is only when the materials containing asbestos become damaged or starts to wear away that action needs to be taken.
How to Test for Asbestos in Various Places
Various parts of the home may contain asbestos which was installed by tradesmen as they constructed houses and carried out upgrades and refits. Tradesmen working in a wide range of professions would have been handling and working closely with asbestos on a day to day basis and may not even have been made aware of the risk associated with the material themselves, unless informed by their employer.
In the home asbestos was used in a vast amount of common place building and plumbing products. The most frequent uses for asbestos would have been in rigid floor and ceiling tiles, certain types of roof shingles, in insulation used in attic spaces and around pipe work, and in some types of sealants used to seal pipes and boilers.
Asbestos was also used in cement compound that was regularly used to seal joints of pipes within the home. Asbestos was such a common ingredient in these products due to its ability to resist extremely high temperatures, thus making materials containing asbestos the perfect choice when installing boilers and pipe work required for household heating systems.
Asbestos creates a problem for our health when it is released into the air and is subsequently inhaled. Asbestos gives off tiny fibers, too small to be seen by the human eye, which float around causing us to breathe them in. These fibers settle in the lining of the lungs and with prolonged exposure over a period of time they can cause diseases to develop which are directly related to the asbestos fibers. Asbestos can also cause a serious type of cancer, Mesothelioma, and often symptoms are not seen for some years after exposure.
The Dangers of Testing for Asbestos
Asbestos in the home is a problem when materials start to break down or are damaged in some way. This damage causes the fibers to be released into the air. As many products containing asbestos were installed a number of years ago they will eventually start to erode, this is often the case with cement based products. Sanding, sawing and drilling of products containing asbestos will also cause the fibers to be released. This can easily happen when products are being installed in the home such as boilers, or when removing old insulation.
Some of the most common places where asbestos damage may occur in the home are:
- Boiler cement
- Pipe lagging
- Attic insulation
- Ceiling and floor tiles
Testing for asbestos in the home should be carried out by a professional company, this is important to keep health risks to a minimum. Asbestos cannot be seen and can only be detected by testing the materials for the presence of the asbestos fibers. You can contact the Environmental Health Agency for advice on testing in your home. Samples of any damaged areas will be documented and sent away to be tested in an expert laboratory. It is not advisable to remove a section of undamaged asbestos material to see if it contains asbestos.