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Does Your House Have Asbestos?

asbestos removalIt goes without saying that asbestos fiber is harmful to your health when touched or inhaled, however, many older homes were constructed using asbestos products.  Builders once prized asbestos’ fire-retardant and insulating capabilities.

The good news is, unless you are damaging or disturbing the asbestos building materials, they are not likely to be a health risk.  However, if you notice damage, want to remodel, or have repairs done, you should arrange for asbestos testing first.

How do I check if my house has Asbestos?

Asbestos can come in a variety of colors and be included in many building products from pipe or attic insulation all the way to paint or glass glazes.   Because of this, it is very difficult to tell for sure if your home has asbestos from a visual inspection only.  The best way to verify if your home has asbestos is to call in an industrial hygiene contractor to inspect potential problem areas in your home.  The industrial hygiene professional will be able to evaluate what health risk may be present in your home, and if any other steps are needed to repair or remove the asbestos.

A proper assessment by an industrial hygiene contractor will include both a full visual inspection and the careful taking of samples for further asbestos testing.   As exposure to asbestos fibers can cause serious health problem or even death, samples should always be taken by a trained professional.  Do not try to take samples yourself. You may be creating a health risk in your home that didn’t exist before.

They found Asbestos! Now What?

Don’t panic.  The industrial hygiene contractor will give you a report that outlines which areas of your house have asbestos, and what further steps (if any) need to be taken to repair or remove the asbestos from your home.  Remember that in an undamaged state, asbestos can often remain in your home without causing a health risk.  It’s once it starts releasing fibers that prolonged exposure can cause respiratory issues, cancer and health problems.   Sometimes the best thing you can do is to leave asbestos undisturbed.   If the contractor does recommend repair or removal of the asbestos, keep reading.

The next step is to hire a certified asbestos abatement professional.  The hygienist or your local health department can usually refer you to a list of asbestos abatement professionals in your area.  There’s no reason why you can’t get multiple estimates from reputable contractors on the work that needs to be done, just like any other home improvement project.

Before work starts on the asbestos project, be sure to get a written contract specifying the work to be done, the timeline, and any clean up fees or permit arrangements that need to be made.  It is a good idea to have an industrial hygienist come back to do more asbestos testing after the abatement work has been completed to make sure it was done properly.

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