Asbestos in the Home

Finding toxic asbestos in your home can be a terrifying thing, but keep in mind that the danger actually arises when the asbestos-containing materials become damaged. If the asbestos materials are in good condition, the best thing to do is not disturb them.
There are nine possible locations for asbestos hazards: steam and hot water pipes in homes built before 1970, vinyl floor tiles, coal and oil furnace insulation, gas-fired fireplace artificial ashes, roofing and siding shingles, insulation (only if the home was built between 1930 and 1950), wood burning stove floor and wall protectors, textured paint and wall and ceiling patching compounds, and old products such as ironing board covers.

If you suspect a material contains asbestos and it is in good condition it is best to leave it alone, however, check it regularly for signs of any damage. When dealing with lightly damaged material try to block access to the area, do not touch it, and contact your local environmental or health officials. If the material containing asbestos is severely damaged or you are planning a renovation, a professional is required to repair or remove the material, and you may be entitled to legal action.

How to Identify Materials that Contain Asbestos
You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. If done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling, and at a minimum, should observe the following procedures:

  • Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is done.
  • Wear disposable gloves or wash hands after sampling.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the spread of any released fibers.
  • Do not disturb the material any more than is needed to take a small sample.
  • Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be sampled.
  • Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent before taking the sample. The water/detergent mist will reduce the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material using, for example, a small knife, corer, or other sharp object. Place the small piece into a clean container
  • Tightly seal the container after the sample is in it.
  • Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local procedures.
  • Label the container with identification number and clearly state when and where the sample was taken.
  • Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release.
  • Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and technology (NIST).

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos.
  • Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos material.
  • Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by asbestos professionals.
  • Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos materials.
  • Don’t use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on a dry floor.
  • âDon’t sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing, install new floor covering over it, if possible.
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