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Asbestos is essentially a mineral fiber consisting of silicon, hydrogen, oxygen, and other positively charged metal ions cations. There are several varieties of asbestos fiber, the most common of which include amosite, chrysotile, and crocidolite. It was once a popular addition to building materials as it has strengthening and heat insulation properties. Recent studies have found that high levels of exposure to asbestos can be detrimental to human health. Today, it is carefully regulated due to evidence linking it to serious respiratory diseases.
As a result of the integration of asbestos in building material, it has been found in most homes built prior to the 1990s. Supposing asbestos is found at home, its mere presence is usually not a cause for concern. The real danger begins when harmful asbestos fibers become airborne.
For homeowners who have confirmed the presence of asbestos at home, here are some dos and don’ts keep the risk contained:
Asbestos Material Do’s
● Take precautionary measures to avoid damaging asbestos material. Avoid engaging in maintenance and hobby activities such as welding, sawing, cutting, and other activities that could potentially disturb asbestos.
● Hire highly-trained experts with asbestos abatement certification to handle the removal or enclosure of asbestos material. Handling asbestos should only be done by duly certified personnel due to the possibly lethal consequences of exposure to asbestos fiber.
Asbestos Material Don’t’s
● Disturb debris containing asbestos; avoid dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming potential asbestos debris.
● Make direct contact with nor saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos materials.
● Strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use abrasive pads, brushes, or power stripper on a dry floor.
● Attempt to level asbestos flooring. Instead, install new floor covering over it.
Major renovations or repair on houses found or even suspected to have asbestos material must be done only by a professional trained to safely handle asbestos. Minor repairs are also best performed under the supervision of experts to avoid any risk of exposure to asbestos fibers.
Although the risk is virtually non-existent when asbestos is intact, the improper execution could potentially agitate asbestos leaving the household vulnerable to exposure. It is best to leave even minor repairs in the capable hands of asbestos trained experts to keep harm at bay. In the case of Do-It-Yourself ventures, homeowners should be equipped with as much information as possible on the proper and safe handling of asbestos prior to performing the repair.
The state, local health department, or regional EPA office is a good source of information on the asbestos training programs available for homeowners. Although being well informed on handling asbestos is helpful, it is still recommended to limit maintenance activities to minor repairs. As a general rule of thumb, any damaged area bigger than the size the homeowner’s had is not deemed a minor repair.
In preparation for minor repair projects, be sure to adhere to all the aforementioned precautionary measures. The asbestos material should always be wet using a fine mist of water mixed with a few drops of detergent. Products intended to fill holes and seal damaged areas may also be used.
Removal is the most effective yet expensive approach to completely eliminate the risk of exposure to asbestos. It is rarely considered the first option as removal also poses a greater risk of fiber release. In the event of major renovations, removal is usually recommended as large-scale home changes almost always disturb asbestos material. Only trained professionals are allowed to perform asbestos removal as improper handling may significantly expose the household to asbestos fiber.