Hazards of Asbestos Exposure and Precautions to Take When Remodeling an Older Home

Hazards of Asbestos When Remodeling Your Home

By: Kaitlyn Teabo

Since the housing market crashed, real estate has not fully recovered. As a result, more people are remodeling their home rather than selling and buying a new one. It has become a less expensive way to personalize the space you and your family call home.

However, remodeling can be a dangerous process if your home was built before the 1980s and was constructed with asbestos-containing materials.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of tiny fibers and is widely known for its insulation properties, flexibility and strength. It was heavily used as an affordable alternative for home construction products and materials from the 1930s through the 1970s. It was most commonly used in:

  • floor and ceiling tiles
  • paint
  • wall insulation
  • shingles
  • insulation around water pipes
  • carpeting

Although asbestos is a great insulator and an affordable product for home construction, when its fibers deteriorate or become damaged over time, it can become a toxic and dangerous material for you and your family.

Once asbestos fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled or ingested and lodge in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Prolonged exposure can lead to an accumulation of its fibers in the body and may lead to the development of malignant mesothelioma cancer or other-asbestos-related conditions.

Precautions to Take When Remodeling Your Home

1. If the Asbestos is Not Damaged, It May Be Best to Leave It Alone.
Asbestos only becomes a hazard to your health when its fibers have become exposed. If an asbestos-containing material in your home, such as pipe insulation, is in good condition, it may not pose an immediate risk to your health, but you should monitor the area for any potential future risk.

2. Do Not Disturb Asbestos.
If an area in your home that needs remodeling contains asbestos, do not disturb the asbestos in any way, including vacuuming or sweeping the surrounding areas. If the asbestos is disturbed, it may release toxic fibers in the air, possibly contaminating a larger area of your home.

3. When in Doubt, Call a Professional.
Even if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person, it is best to contact a local home remodeling professional when dealing with asbestos. A licensed professional will have the experience and equipment to properly handle the asbestos in your home and can evaluate the asbestos material and its condition to determine if it just needs a repair, replacement or if it is better left alone.

RULE OF THUMB: If your home was built before the 1980s, it may contain asbestos products. Don’t remove old flooring, piping, tiles or drywall without certainty that it does not contain asbestos. If you think your home may contain asbestos, the best precaution you can take is calling a professional before remodeling.

Kaitlyn Teabo is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in writing, cancer research and emerging scientific technology to educate the mesothelioma community about asbestos and its related diseases.

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