Question:  My parents house was built in 1940 and I had someone come out to look at some projects my parents wanted done. The man who came out to the house said the floor tiles and ceiling material might have asbestos in them. Is this something I need to be concerned about? Do I need to have it removed?

Answer:  Lets start with what asbestos is: It’s a mineral fiber. It can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope

Is it a health hazard? The following data is from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, it was discovered that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of Lung Cancer.

Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.

Even if asbestos is in your house, this is usually NOT a serious problem. The mere presence of asbestos in a home or a building is not hazardous. The danger is that asbestos materials may become damaged over time. Damaged asbestos may release asbestos fibers and become a health hazard.

Asbestos is mainly dangerous in the dry powder form. If the texture is kept wet and contained, the danger is minimal.

Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found In Your Home

Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement. Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation. Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives. Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape

Their use was banned in 1977.

THE BEST THING TO DO WITH ASBESTOS MATERIAL IN GOOD CONDITION IS TO LEAVE IT ALONE!  Disturbing it may create a health hazard where none existed before.

If you don’t know if the material you want to remove has asbestos in it you can take a sample to a local hazardous material testing company and they will test it for you for $50 -$75.  Your  contractor can do it for you and will do it before starting a project if its part of the renovation and your house was built before 1977.

Dave Silva/GC

I’m available to answer your questions and/or to supply you with a complementary estimate for any of your projects.


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