Home and Health
Home and Health

Working on Your House? Watch for Asbestos.

Illustration for article titled Working on Your House? Watch for Asbestos.

If you are a new homeowner and are planning on making renovations, keep one fact in mind: asbestos remains a killer. Many people think of asbestos as something that happened in the past, something we don’t need to be worried about any longer. People mistakenly lump asbestos in with DDT—a chemical that has been banned since public health agencies uncovered the horrible truth about its cancer-causing properties and alerted the public.


This view is mistaken. While it is true that asbestos is no longer used in most new construction projects, the asbestos that was already present in many building prior to its ban (in most situations) remains stuffed away in ceilings, walls, and basements everywhere. In fact, most homes built before the 1980s contain asbestos. When you work on your home, remember to be aware of this silent killer.

Who Should Be Concerned?

Anyone lives in a home built before the 1980s should be aware of asbestos. If you own your home, check your paperwork. You should especially be aware of asbestos risks if your plan on doing any do-it-yourself maintenance. Renters: check with the landlord if you’re unsure of your home’s construction date.


If you have a newer home, you are in luck. Asbestos is largely a thing of the past, and modern construction companies will almost never put you or your family at risk of asbestos exposure.

How Do I Know If My Home is Contaminated With Asbestos?

Asbestos was, for many years, used to insulate rooms and prevent fires. Because of this, you will likely find asbestos in walls, around pipes, in certain kinds of tiling and roofing, and in fabrics designed to be flame and heat resistant. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos is often found in car parts as well as in building materials, so gear heads should also be the look out for the material.


Because asbestos is found in such a huge variety of places, you should be aware of its appearance. Asbestos is usually white and has a distinct texture. The UK Health and Safety Executive has a picture gallery here. A quick Google image search should give you an idea of asbestos’s appearance, as well.

Be Aware of Asbestos in Your Home, But Don’t Dig Around For It

If you find asbestos in your home, there are a few things you should do. The first and most important of those things is this: do not touch asbestos. Call a professional to have your asbestos cleared away. Even one little strand of asbestos can lead to cancer. Do not breathe it in. Do not handle it. Do not take care of it yourself.


Do remember, though, that if asbestos is properly contained within an object in your house, you do not need to panic. In many cases, actually, asbestos will pose no threat to you and your family so long as it remains kept in its original state. Remember that, unless you are a trained asbestos expert, you should have a professional come in and have a look. You don’t want to get cancer from your summer house project; according to Joe Belluck’s book, thousands of people get mesothelioma yearly.Working on Your House? Watch for Asbestos.

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