Asbestos is what we call a number of naturally occurring silicate minerals that used to be used in construction due to their thermal stability, insulation properties, and durability. However, when asbestos is disturbed and tiny fibers of it become airborne, it becomes very dangerous. It may cause a range of health issues, from asbestosis to lung cancer. This is why you should be aware of it, especially if you happen to live in an older home. With that in mind, here’s what you should know about asbestos.
Where can it be found?
Many homes that were built before 1980 have asbestos in ceiling tiles, resilient floor tiles as well as adhesives used for installing floor tiles, walls, and roof shingles. Insulation around boilers, pipes, ducts, furnaces, and fireplaces may also include asbestos. Additionally, soundproofing material that is usually sprayed on walls and ceiling could also contain asbestos.
Now, asbestos on its own is not dangerous when it’s in a stable and isolated form. However, if you ever decide to remodel your home, or even if you clean the asbestos-containing area improperly, you could disturb the material and become exposed to the harmful fibers. This means that if you’ve bought an old house for its antique charm, and you want to remodel it to suit your needs, you need to first make sure it’s safe.
How to check for asbestos
Keep in mind that even though it’s mostly found in older homes, some newer houses may contain asbestos as well, as it wasn’t banned everywhere at the same time. This is especially true if you happen to live in Australia, as a large number of older houses there do contain asbestos. For example, asbestos and all products containing it were only completely banned in 2003. That being said, this doesn’t mean that you should go around looking for it – you don’t really want to find it. You can’t detect it visually, and if you go around poking holes in walls and floors, you also risk inhaling the fibers and suffering the consequences. Instead, you should call certified professionals to get samples, and then they can analyze those samples in a laboratory to determine whether there is any asbestos in your home. This way, you and your family are less likely to get exposed to asbestos fibers. Fortunately, you can easily find a laboratory that does asbestos testing in Sidney. So, if you suspect that you might be living with asbestos, getting your home tested should not be a problem.
As mentioned, inhaling asbestos can lead to some serious health issues. It mostly happens to people whose profession required them to work near asbestos fibers and thus, breathe them in. This includes construction workers who didn’t use safe practices. Sometimes, they also carried that asbestos home on their clothes, shoes, skin, and hair, which means that they unknowingly infected their families as well.
In some cases, teachers who worked in old school buildings and pupils who went to those schools got exposed as well. Some of them are yet to develop health issues, as most asbestos-related diseases can take up to 20-30 years to manifest themselves.
Speaking of asbestos-related diseases, they include pleural plaques (thick patches of scar tissue on the lining of the lungs), asbestosis (progressive scar tissue inside the lungs, which can make breathing difficult), lung cancer, and mesothelioma, which is also a type of cancer that affects the diaphragm, the lining of the chest wall, and the covering of the lungs. As mentioned, most of them can take years, even decades, to develop, which is why it’s almost impossible to know whether you’ve been exposed to asbestos before the symptoms start showing. Moreover, the risk of the two mentioned types of cancer increases if you are a smoker, and it also increases if you’ve been exposed to asbestos for a long time.
As you can see, asbestos is not something you should take lightly, as the consequences of being exposed to it can be very serious and very long-term. Therefore, be mindful of your own environment. If you suspect that your home might have some asbestos in it, don’t hesitate to call professionals that would test it, and if necessary, remove all the asbestos safely.