Asbestos can cause asbestosis - a scarring of the lungs, or mesothelioma - cancer of the pleura, peritoneum, or pericardium.
It is a complex and expensive matter to remove asbestos, and should be done by an experienced professional. When disturbing an asbestos product, maximum precautions must be taken to safeguard the workers and anybody else who may be nearby. Asbestos dust must remain within the work area so that it cannot be breathed in by unprotected persons.
If you do not know if products in your home contain asbestos, have an experienced contractor inspect them. If there is asbestos, it is vital to call a professional to remove it completely. If the product is already protected or isolated, simply leave it alone.
Today, far fewer products in the home contain asbestos. However, frequent or prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres may still bring health risks. This can happen with the release of fibres into the air when asbestos-containing products break down, either through deterioration as they age or when they are cut. People can put themselves at risk — often without realizing it — if they do not take proper precautions when repairs or renovations disturb asbestos containing materials. This can occur in a number of situations:
Asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are in the air that people breathe. Asbestos fibres lodge in the lungs, causing scarring that can ultimately lead to severely impaired lung function (asbestosis) and cancers of the lungs or lung cavity.
Concern for the health of asbestos workers was expressed as long ago as the late 1800s. The risks became more evident in the late 1960s, when workers who had been heavily exposed 20 to 30 years earlier showed increased incidence of lung disease. Occupational exposure is now strictly regulated by provincial governments.
Asbestos is a natural mineral with unusual qualities. It is strong enough to resist high temperatures, chemical attack and wear. A poor conductor, it insulates well against heat and electricity. Asbestos crystals become long, flexible, silky fibres, so it can be made into a wide variety of forms.
Asbestos has been used in hundreds of applications and products over the past 4,500 years. Until the 1980s, asbestos was used in office buildings, public buildings and schools. It insulated hot water heating systems, and was put into walls and ceilings as insulation against fire and sound. Asbestos has also been widely used in transportation and electrical appliances, frequently mixed with, and encased in, other materials. Asbestos has also been found in many products around the house. It has been used in clapboard; shingles and felt for roofing; exterior siding; pipe and boiler covering; compounds and cement, such as caulk, putty, roof patching, furnace cement and driveway coating; wallboard; textured and latex paints; acoustical ceiling tiles and plaster; vinyl floor tiles; appliance wiring; hair dryers; irons and ironing board pads; flame-resistant aprons and electric blankets; and clay pottery. Loose-fill vermiculite insulation may contain traces of “amphibole” asbestos.
Here are 5 places that asbestos could be lurking:
1) Roofing and siding
2) Pipes and ducts
3) Ceiling tiles
4) Floor coverings
Be aware, shop smart, and invest in a home inspection. In most cases, asbestos is better left undisturbed, but once it starts posing a risk on your health and safety, it's time to call in a professional.