These days, when we hear the word asbestos we tend to panic. We may not know a lot about this mineral, but we do know that it is dangerous.
You may be surprised to learn that asbestos is still present in a lot of products around the world, though, and that includes products you’re likely to find in your own home.
Why has this mineral been used for so many purposes?
The answer is that it’s a highly effective insulator. Ironically, the same properties that make asbestos so useful also make it highly toxic.
On the positive side, it’s very powerful; resistant to heat, electricity, and even corrosion. Those are attractive features for many household products, but can you imagine how it interacts with your body?
It’s easy to see how asbestos can cause long-term damage.
There are many misunderstandings that circulate about asbestos. In this article, you’ll learn the truth.
You’ll not only understand how it’s used and the inherent risks involved, but you’ll also know what to do in the event that you discover asbestos in your home.
Table of Contents
What Are The Risks When It Comes to Asbestos?
Obviously, asbestos exposure should be avoided whenever possible. However, contact with this mineral doesn’t necessarily equal a death sentence.
Its impact depends on a range of factors, for example as how much of it there is and how long you’re exposed.
Dangers also vary depending on whether you have pre-existing lung or respiratory issues. If you’re a smoker, the risks from exposure are more serious.
That’s because asbestos can be inhaled into the lungs where tiny fibers get stuck and cause irritation.
When these fibers cause scarring, it leads to a condition called asbestosis. Scarred lungs do not function at the same level, making breathing more difficult.
What’s most worrying about this condition is that it can develop silently. Years can pass before obvious symptoms are experienced by sufferers.
The pleural disease can also be caused by asbestos exposure. This is a non-cancerous lung condition affecting the membrane that surrounds the lungs.
It’s commonly known that asbestos has a strong connection to various cancers including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
If you’ve been exposed to asbestos in significant quantities or over a prolonger time period, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor to rule out any negative health effects.
Where is Asbestos Commonly Found?
Now that you understand the health risks involved, it would make sense that you want to rid your home of as much asbestos as possible.
Maybe you’re unsure where to look first. The good news is that any product made recently should be clearly labeled if it contains asbestos.
What if your home was constructed before the 1970s? This is relevant because the dangers of asbestos were not widely known until then.
As a result, there’s a higher chance that your home’s infrastructure was built using this dangerous mineral.
Check whether your roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement or whether your house uses asbestos as insulation.
In older houses, another place you may find asbestos is in hot water and steam pipes. In the past, this mineral was commonly used as a coating.
Other potential locations include vinyl floor tiles, stove-top pads, and the walls and floors that surround wood-burning stoves.
Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may also have asbestos insulation installed, so that’s worth investigating.
Understandably, there has been a significant decline in the use of asbestos products as public awareness of the associated health risks has grown.
However, older buildings may contain the mineral without their inhabitants even knowing, and that’s a problem.
Is It Safe to Clean an Asbestos Roof?
If you have an asbestos roof, you’re probably wondering how to clean it. Naturally, you don’t want to expose yourself or others to dangerous amounts of this mineral. For that reason, it’s not a process that should be rushed into. Research is required.
Don’t worry! Just because your roof contains asbestos doesn’t mean you have to leave it to accumulate dirt. These roofs are often covered in dirt, moss, and even weeds. There are safe ways to clean them up, but it’s definitely a job for a professional.
Experienced contractors will be able to help you because they know the risks and how to mitigate them.
They’re also used to working at a height, which is another danger when it comes to roof cleaning!
Any sensible person can see that there’s no way this should become a DIY project.
The professionals are likely to clean your roof using one of three methods: manual scraping, pressure washing, or steam cleaning.
The method they choose will depend on your circumstances and the kind of roof that you have.
Make sure that any contractors you hire are trained and qualified to handle asbestos. Any waste removed from your roof should be disposed of safely and responsibly too.
Can I Paint an Asbestos Roof?
If you realize you have an asbestos roof, your first impulse may be to replace it. This may not be necessary.
Some asbestos roofs have lasted a long time and they’re sufficiently sturdy to prevent any problems that come from the mineral breaking away.
Asbestos roofing alone does not pose a hazard to your health. The danger occurs when it falls into disrepair, so if it’s in good condition, it can generally be left alone.
The best way to find out if your roof should be entirely replaced is to ask an experienced asbestos expert.
There are options besides full replacement to ensure your ongoing safety. For example, you can seal an asbestos roof using specific purpose-built paints.
This will help to prevent the dust and deterioration that lead to asbestos fiber contamination. In this way, painting your roof doesn’t just provide aesthetic appeal; it also protects your health!
If your asbestos roof is currently uncoated, changing that should be an urgent priority.
However, just like with asbestos roof cleaning, this is a task for professionals. It’s not a normal painting job, and it shouldn’t be treated as though it is.
Besides the obvious height-related risk, there’s the possibility that an amateur paint job ends up disrupting the asbestos.
This can have serious consequences! You can absolutely have your asbestos roof painted, but that doesn’t mean you can paint your own asbestos roof.
How Can I Insulate an Asbestos Garage Roof?
If your garage roof contains asbestos, that is most likely there for the purposes of insulation.
You don’t necessarily need to remove this roof, but you do need to take precautions to preserve it and so prevent any potential health problems.
The best way to do this is to seal your garage roof. It’s worth investing in good-quality paint and sealant to avoid the risk of deterioration.
This protective coating can’t be too rigid as asbestos expands in the heat. Consult with an expert and hire a professional to apply it correctly.
Despite its obvious downsides, there are positive factors to this kind of roof. Asbestos as a mineral is incredibly durable, meaning that your roof should last a long time.
With the correct coating to encapsulate asbestos fibers, there’s no reason you can’t keep your current garage roof.
What Should I do If I Find Asbestos?
Before you go on an asbestos hunt, you should know that you can’t identify asbestos by sight. A test is required, and you should contact local labs to find out what type of sample they need.
If you suspect a building material contains asbestos, it’s a good idea to limit your exposure until you’ve had it checked out.
If you know for sure it’s asbestos, there are some things you absolutely must not do. You shouldn’t cut it, sand it, scrape it, wash it, move it, or try to break it apart.
Tempting as it may be, you cannot simply dump it either. This puts other people at serious risk and may be illegal.
To safely dispose of asbestos, call your local waste management authority.
Remember, if asbestos materials are in good condition, they may not pose a significant health risk.
They’ll only release dangerous asbestos fibers if they are disturbed, so your job is not to disturb them!
The only step you need to take in that case is to paint them, secure them, and otherwise leave them alone.
Now you know what asbestos is, where it’s most likely to be found, and your options if you discover it in your home.
Although the health risks of asbestos shouldn’t be underestimated, there are ways to minimize the risk and maintain your original housing infrastructure.
One thing’s for sure: whenever you’re managing asbestos or suspected asbestos, you should get the professionals involved.
Expert testing and trained contractors should be your first port of call.