What You Need to Know About Asbestos in Old Homes
This is part of our series on
Once upon a time, there was a miracle mineral. Imagine a completely natural substance, plentiful in supply, which could strengthen any cloth, paper, cement, insulation, and a number of other materials. It is also waterproof, fireproof, and long-lasting. Sounds too good to be true, right?
While this miracle isn’t just a myth, sadly, it was too good to be true. You’ve probably heard of asbestos, this infamous “magic” mineral, which was used in a wide range of household and commercial products up until the 1980’s. Unfortunately, the fibers and small particles released into the air by asbestos products are really dangerous. It is known to cause a number of aggressive lung diseases, such as mesothelioma and other cancers. Apart from smoking cigarettes, exposure to this dangerous mineral is the number one cause of lung disease.
What to Look Out For
So, what does this mean for you, as a prospective buyer of an old home? Here’s the deal: you can’t detect asbestos on your own. Only a certified professional can tell for sure if there are any contaminated products in your prospective home. You should contact one of your state’s accredited inspectors to evaluate the needs of the specific property. Chances are, there are still some in the house. If there are, don’t panic. Yes, it’s a dangerous substance, but it is only harmful if the particles are airborne, which typically only happens if the substance is disturbed.
When you hire a pro to examine the home, they’ll examine areas and fixtures like:
- Vermiculite insulation in attics and/or walls
- Vinyl flooring
- Shingles (roof and siding)
- Textured paint on walls & ceilings
- Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves
- Furnaces, gaskets, hot water pipes, & steam pipes
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for Homeowners, recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency:
- Leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone.
- Keep activities to a minimum in any areas with damaged material that may contain asbestos. Limit children’s access to these materials.
- Take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material.
- 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 a trained and accredited professional.
- Dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
- Saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
- Use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on flooring that may contain asbestos.
- Sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing install new floor covering over it, if possible.
- Track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area or if a large area must be cleaned, call a professional.