The risk of asbestos cancer exposure in homes across the United States is very real and is of great concern to public health officials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has described the risk of exposure to asbestos in houses, including asbestos in products such as:
- Attic insulation
- Wall insulation
- Plumbing/pipe insulation
- Asbestos in cement, bricks, and stucco
- Boilers and furnaces with asbestos components
- Flooring that contains asbestos
- ceiling tiles
- Household products and appliances
Years of Asbestos Cancer Exposure
Asbestos in houses that have not been disturbed is not thought to be actively dangerous. The danger is when the asbestos is moved or when it deteriorates. These circumstances may cause the release of asbestos fibers into the air, where they can be inhaled by people and pets living in a house. Years (or decades) spent living with asbestos exposure in the home can result in serious and even life-threatening diseases caused by the asbestos. It’s imperative that homeowners and renters understand the risks they face from asbestos in the home environment.
Millions of homes were built in the U.S. in the decades when asbestos was thought to be a “miracle material,” known for its fire- and heat-resistant properties. Asbestos is extremely durable and very versatile: it can be formed into sheets, used as an ingredient with other materials, woven into textiles, and even sprayed onto surfaces.
It wasn’t until the late 1970s that home builders started to cut back on the use of asbestos materials. If you are involved in the renovation of an old home (one built prior to the 1970s), you should take the risk of asbestos exposure seriously. The renovation of an older home or building is almost always accompanied by the risk of asbestos exposure. Homes built prior to the late 1970s are likely to contain asbestos-containing materials that were used during the construction process. If you plan to begin renovations on an older home or building, be sure to hire a qualified inspector to inspect your building for asbestos beforehand. Asbestos-containing materials commonly used in construction may include:
- Furnace duct insulation
- Deck under sheeting
- Roof and wall insulation
- Pipe insulation
- Wood pulp
- Vinyl flooring or floor tiles
- Joint compounds used to seal wallboards
- Water heater blankets
- Textured paints in ceilings and walls
- Walls behind stoves, heaters, and fireplaces
Asbestos Vermiculite Attic Insulation
A particularly bad culprit of asbestos cancer in homes is vermiculite, a mineral that can be contaminated with asbestos. Vermiculite was provided as a loose filling material, and it was easy to pour into the spaces between the floor joists of an attic. It was often left exposed.
Nearly all of the vermiculite used this way was obtained from a mine in Libby, Montana that was heavily contaminated with asbestos. The Libby mine workers’ rates of lung cancer and mesothelioma cancer from asbestos are far higher than the national averages. The EPA strongly recommends that you not disturb any vermiculite in your home. They also note that vermiculite in the attic can sift through ceiling cracks and around ceiling fans and light fixtures.
Dangers of Asbestos Renovations
The health risks of asbestos exposure should not be taken lightly. Asbestos is the cause of diseases such as:
- Asbestosis: A chronic, nonmalignant, progressive, irreversible lung disease that reduces lung capacity.
- Lung cancer: The uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that occurs in the lungs.
- Mesothelioma: A rare cancer that affects the chest or abdominal cavity lining. (Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of this disease)
Awareness of Asbestos Key to Safety
Most asbestos containing products don’t pose a health risk so long as they are in good condition and undisturbed. On the other hand, if these products are frayed, crumbling, or worn, they are likely releasing toxic asbestos fibers into the air.
These airborne fibers are what makes asbestos dangerous. When the fibers are inhaled, they can cause permanent and deadly damage. Workers performing renovations should be made aware of the presence of asbestos. If they are not, there is a good chance that asbestos-containing materials may be inadvertently damaged or disturbed.
When Asbestos is Discovered
If asbestos-containing materials are discovered during the renovation process, be sure to have a qualified professional determine if removal is necessary. If the materials are in good condition and likely to remain so, then they may not need to be removed. If the materials are determined to be a hazard, trained and qualified workers should be hired to remove or seal the asbestos.
Residential asbestos exposure is a very significant source of asbestos poisoning and ensuing diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Millions of houses, apartments, and other private residences in the U.S. have been responsible for asbestos exposure, and the men, women, and children who lived in these places unknowingly inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers. So, where do you find asbestos in the home?
- floor tiles
- ceiling tiles
- textiles, and
- much more
Thousands of Residential Building Products
Literally thousands of different asbestos building materials have been responsible for residential asbestos exposure. Although asbestos is thought not to be dangerous when it is “trapped” within a product, all products eventually deteriorate, and most instances of residential asbestos exposure are due to deteriorated, “friable” (crumbling) building products that release asbestos fibers.
Thus, asbestos fibers in the air, on the ground and in drinking water are the sources of the residential asbestos exposure that has sickened thousands of humans and many animals (pets such as dogs and cats are mammals that are also vulnerable to asbestos poisoning).
In addition, many instances of residential asbestos exposure occur when a home is renovated or remodeled, including:
- tearing down a wall
- pulling up a floor
- replacing old insulation
- removing roof shingles
- changing an old light fixture
- replacing an old furnace or plumbing or electrical wiring
These are all opportunities for asbestos fibers to be disturbed and released into the air. Indeed, the large amounts of asbestos in residences built before the 1980s must be dealt with as these homes grow old and begin to need updating. If you’re considering remodeling your own residence, it’s a good idea to determine whether asbestos-containing building products are present before you proceed.
Learn More About the Risk of Asbestos Cancer Exposure in Your Home
If you are concerned about the very real risk posed by asbestos in homes, contact an attorney at Mesothelioma Treatment Centers to find out more. There are many things you can do, and a few things that you shouldn’t do when it comes to home renovations.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos in homes, contact us today to speak with a qualified lawyer. You may be entitled to compensation for the damages to your health.