Most individuals have heard that asbestos is dangerous. It is commonly known that exposure to asbestos fibers is definitively linked to mesothelioma, as well as other illnesses such as asbestosis and lung cancer. While its dangers are acknowledged by scientists, governments, medical professionals and layman alike, unfortunately many homeowners do not know enough about asbestos to protect themselves and their families. Most individuals do not recognize that asbestos can be present in their own homes. Understanding where it can be found, how it can become a threat and how to deal with it can save your life.
Asbestos is most often found in building materials and therefore is “hidden” in the walls, floors and mechanical systems of buildings, including homes, built before wide-spread acknowledgement of its dangers in the 1970’s. Generally, asbestos-containing material in these pre-1970’s buildings that is in good condition and is not disturbed will not release asbestos fibers. When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, however, fine dust and fiber particles of asbestos are released into the air. If you are a homeowner, you should be concerned about asbestos if building materials in your home are damaged (tears, abrasions, water damage) or if you are planning a remodeling project.
In general, checking for asbestos should be left to professionals. You should never handle materials that you think may contain asbestos and you should not perform asbestos tests yourself, as incorrect testing can result in inaccurate findings as well as increased hazards. In the event that you suspect asbestos in your home, the most important thing to do is to leave the asbestos-containing material undisturbed. If the suspected asbestos-containing material is not damaged and you aren’t planning a remodel, keep a careful eye on its condition and keep in mind that an increase in wear and tear can lead to increased risk of asbestos exposure. Restrict access to it to avoid releasing harmful fibers into the air.
There are two types of asbestos professionals who can be helpful to homeowners: asbestos inspectors and asbestos contractors. If your home is damaged or if you are planning a remodeling project and you suspect the presence of asbestos, the situation may require one or both professionals.
An asbestos inspector will test your house for asbestos and recommend repairs and/or clean-up procedures. The asbestos inspector can also monitor the repair and clean-up work while it is ongoing to ensure that it is done properly. Finally, the inspector signs-off on the quality and completeness of the job and conducts a final testing of asbestos levels in your home’s air to protect against an increase in asbestos levels after the work.
You should hire a properly trained, accredited asbestos contractor to repair and/or remove the asbestos-containing material. Keep in mind that the asbestos will still remain after a repair. Repairs typically involve either coating the material in a sealant or covering the material with a sheet or jacket to keep asbestos fibers from escaping. Removals are typically done for houses about to be remodeled and materials that cannot be repaired.
When dealing with an asbestos contractor, be sure to get a written contract before the work begins specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state, and local regulations which the contractor must follow. Contractors are required to follow very specific regulations and requirements for such things as notification, removal, handling, disposal procedures and asbestos workers protection.
While working in your home, the asbestos contractor should take precautions to protect your family from exposure including but not limited to marking the work area as “hazardous” and preventing entry, sealing off the area from the rest of the house with plastic sheeting and duct tape, turning off the heating and air conditioning system, and avoiding tracking the asbestos dust into other areas of your home. You should see the contractor applying a wetting agent to the asbestos material to prevent the fibers from floating into the air and the contractor should avoid breaking materials into smaller pieces. Final clean up should be done with wet mops, rags and sponges, and an HEPA vacuum cleaner. A regular vacuum should never be used. Disposal of the asbestos materials, disposable equipment and clothing used on the site should be done in sealed and labeled heavy-duty plastic bags. At the end of the job, you should request written assurance that all appropriate procedures have been followed.
When hiring asbestos professionals to deal with the asbestos in your home, avoid a conflict of interest by hiring one asbestos professional or firm to inspect and assess the need for asbestos repair or removal and another professional or firm to do the actual repair or removal of asbestos materials. Ask the asbestos professionals to document their completion of federal or state approved training and to provide proof of accreditation to do asbestos work. Check on the past performance of your asbestos professionals with your local air pollution control board, the local agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau . Request information from the firms regarding safety violations and investigate if there are lawsuits or criminal charges filed against the firms.
Whether you’ve been exposed to asbestos at work or in your home, your health is at risk and you may already be suffering from an asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer. Representing mesothelioma victims and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Philadelphia asbestos lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler have seen firsthand the devastating effects of asbestos exposure. If you have been exposed to asbestos, contact our knowledgeable, compassionate asbestos lawyers to discuss your situation. Call us today at 800-369-0899 or submit an online contact form to schedule a free consultation.