What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name commonly used for a variety of fibrous substances that are found naturally in rock formations in various locations around the world. Asbestos fibers are durable and strong, with the added benefit of being non-combustible, which made them a top choice for many construction products during the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
In commercial use, asbestos can be divided into two distinct groups. One type is called amphibole asbestos and the other is called chrysotile asbestos. Amphibole asbestos has a higher iron level and was used in industrial furnaces and heating systems. Chrysotile asbestos is found in most asbestos-based products. It is generally accepted that amphibole asbestos is the more dangerous of the two.
Asbestos in Your Home
The greatest risk of exposure to asbestos was for workers that worked in industries that produced or used asbestos on a daily basis. Before stricter regulations were developed, these workers may have been exposed to 1,000 times more asbestos than similar employees today.
In the home, asbestos was commonly used in insulation, floor and ceiling tiles and asbestos cement. These products don’t normally release many fibers in their natural state, but when they are disturbed, as often happens during home renovations, the fibers may be released into the air.
If asbestos is present in products that are tightly bound in a compound, there is generally no health risk involved. However, if the fibers are present in the air and breathed in, the health risks are quite significant. The most serious asbestos-related health effects are:
- Asbestosis – scarring of the lungs that makes regular breathing difficult
- Mesothelioma – a rare cancer affecting the abdominal cavity or lining of the chest
- Lung Cancer – when combined with smoking, lung cancer risk due to asbestos exposure is much greater
Not everyone exposed to asbestos will experience the same health issues. The severity of damage depends on factors such as the length of exposure, frequency of exposure, the amount of time that’s passed since the initial exposure and the size of asbestos fibers that were inhaled.
Benefits of Professional Asbestos Testing
Although strict guidelines and regulations govern the use of asbestos today, it is still an issue in countless households and businesses. One of the main issues involves homeowners removing or altering materials that contain asbestos while doing home renovations. Tearing out walls, floors and ceilings that contain asbestos can release fibers into the air and into your lungs.
If you must handle materials that may contain asbestos, here are some important guidelines to follow:
- Always wear an approved, single-use respirator
- Keep pets and family members out of the work area
- Seal off the work area as thoroughly as possible
- Wet any materials to reduce dust; minding electrical circuits
- Use a damp cloth to clean the work area instead of a vacuum
- Try not to cut or damage the materials any further
The only way to know the volume of asbestos-containing materials in your home is to schedule an appointment for professional asbestos testing. Steam Canada will come to your home and test a variety of surfaces and fixtures to determine if asbestos is present, and help create a practical plan for safe removal. Contact us today in London Area to get the process started.