The following article is a guest post by Brian Turner. Brian has been working with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance as an environmental health and toxic substance safety advocate.
Asbestos has been known for many years to be linked to lung cancer, asbestosis (an inflammatory lung disease), and mesothelioma (cancer of the thin membranes surrounding the lungs). While asbestos is a naturally occurring thing that everyone is exposed to at some point in their life, it is the environment where individuals are exposed to it on a regular basis that is cause for alarm. This is why many homeowners are appalled when they discover their home is built with asbestos-containing materials .
When asbestos fibers are disturbed, tiny fibers are released into the air. When those fibers end up in the lungs, they can stay there for long periods of time causing scarring and inflammation. Additionally, asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Although rare, mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer related to exposure of asbestos.
Some commons forms of asbestos found in homes is in roofing or siding shingles, insulation, textured paint and patching compounds, some materials used in gas powered fireplaces, walls or flooring around wood burning stoves, vinyl floor tiles, and as coating on hot water and steam pipes.
If you find that your home has been built using asbestos-containing materials, do not become alarmed. Asbestos is not harmful unless it is disturbed. For that reason, asbestos removal should not be attempted unless the asbestos material is damaged and cannot be repaired. If asbestos-containing material does need repair and is indeed reparable, you should call a professional rather than attempting the repair yourself. Even the simplest of repairs can cause dangerous exposure. If the material is beyond repair and you feel removal is the best option, a professional should be called in to do the job. When choosing a professional, make sure they use proper equipment and have been adequately trained.
Anytime you have known asbestos-containing material in your home, you should avoid damaging it at all cost. If you are not sure if your home contains asbestos, you may call in a professional who will take samples to determine this. Do not take the samples yourself, as any damage to an asbestos material will cause exposure.
If it is determined that your home contains asbestos, there are other options aside from removal. Sometimes asbestos can be covered with a sealant to bind the fibers together. Some asbestos-containing material can be encapsulated or jacketed to contain the fibers, such as exposed insulation in stovepipes.
As I said before, it is highly recommended you hire a professional if any repairs or complete removal is necessitated. Asbestos is extremely dangerous.