If you’ve recently purchased an old house and plan on doing renovations, you may be concerned that your new home could contain asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used in housing construction prior to the 1970’s before the health effects of this insulation material were understood. Because asbestos exposure is now known to cause lung disease, including cancer, it’s important to be sure you’re not exposing you or your family to its deadly health effects. Here’s how to test for asbestos in your home.
How was asbestos used in the past? Asbestos was primarily used as insulation for pipes and other areas, although it was also used in flooring, walls, on shingles, and on siding. In general, areas that may contain asbestos are safe as long as there is no damage which would allow release of the asbestos fibers into the air where they could enter the lungs. Most experts recommend leaving stable structures containing asbestos alone. If you plan on doing any remodeling or renovation and run the risk of disturbing the asbestos fibers and creating a health risk, you need to take action. At this point you could do testing for asbestos and, if present, bring in a licensed asbestos abatement contractor for removal.
To test for asbestos, use a mist bottle to spray the area to be tested lightly with water. This dampens the surface so the fibers are less likely to become airborne. Gently break off a piece of the material while wearing gloves and a face mask. Place the sample into a resealable plastic bag and close it securely. The sample should be packaged up and sent to an asbestos testing lab. You can find a federally accredited lab, by searching the internet.
If the results come back positive after you test for asbestos and you’ll be renovating and remodeling or the structure is damaged, it’ll be important to bring in the experts to eliminate the asbestos fiber. Look in the phone book in your local area for a licensed asbestos remediation company to do the job. This isn’t a task to try on your own due to the health risks. It’s important not to vacuum, sweep, or otherwise disturb areas that contain asbestos. Block off the area so kids and pets can’t reach it until the asbestos can be professionally removed. Don’t try to do any renovations or make any changes until the asbestos problem has been taken care of and your house has a clean bill of health.
Renovating an old house can be rewarding but don’t take any chances when it comes to your health. Always test for asbestos first.