Checking for Asbestos in Your Home

If you are concerned about asbestos exposure you are not alone. Many individuals wonder if they have been exposed, and if so, what they can do to help protect their health. If you think that you have been exposed to asbestos or are looking for ways to prevent an exposure, look no further. We will go over some of the health problems that arise from asbestos exposure, and what can be done to prevent them.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used for a variety of different applications. Many homes may have this material in their insulation, as it is a fire retardant. Once exposed, individuals can inhale the microscopic asbestos particles and take them into their lungs. Once there, the fibers can cause lung cancer. If prolonged exposure occurs, an individual can also develop cancer in the chest cavity and abdomen.

It is important to note that many individuals have experienced brief exposure and been just fine. The fine asbestos particles are difficult to see and get rid of, so it is common for them to remain in their air for long periods of time thus increasing the risk of cancer. Smokers are at an increased risk for side effects due to exposure.

If you think that your home may have asbestos there are several places that you want to look. It is important to remember that products today do not contain the fiber, only things built in the 1970's or earlier.

- Steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts could be insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. If the fibers become damaged or are repaired improperly, they could lead to exposure.

- Resilient floor tiles- the backing on many vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives could contain asbestos. Sanding the tiles or scraping them could release the fibers.

- Cement, millboard, and paper that were used as insulation around furnaces and wood burning stoves. Repairing or removing these appliances could stir up the fibers.

- Door gaskets- in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves.

- Sound proofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings. Sanding, drilling or scraping the material could be harmful.

- Cement roofing, shingles, and siding. This usually only cause a problem when sawed, drilled, or cut.

If you think that you have asbestos in your home, don't panic. If the material is good condition, you can leave it alone. It is only when these materials are disturbed that there is a problem. If you find a damaged area- discard it using asbestos gloves and a facial mask. Your local health or environmental officials will be able to walk you through the proper disposal procedure. Always check with them when beginning any remodeling job.

Remember, the only way to find out if something contains asbestos is to look at it under a microscope. Enlist the help of a professional, and let them handle the details. They are trained in such removal procedures and can help ensure the safety of your family and loved ones.

Kasi Jones is a freelance health writer and contributing author to Asbestos Center - a site providing free information on asbestos and mesothelioma.


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