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Why is it Important to Check for Asbestos in my Home?

Baby powder spilled

Owning a home offers people opportunities to decorate and renovate, which can be quite enjoyable. In older homes though, doing renovations can cause unexpected and unwanted problems to surface. In addition to things like minimal water damage or broken fixtures, serious issues like substantial water leakage, termite infestation, or asbestos can be discovered.

Asbestos was a widely-used construction material in the past, and the majority of homes and many buildings that were constructed before 1980 were built with it. It was a popular building material because of its durability, strength, insulation, and fire resistance. Asbestos was also commonly used in the following items:

  • Sheetrock
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Floor tiles
  • Insulation
  • Spackle
  • Piping
  • Roofing
  • Artificial ashes and embers in gas fireplaces
  • Textured paints
  • Cement
  • Siding
  • Adhesives

Can I See Asbestos in my House?

It is very hard to easily recognize asbestos. However, there are some signs of asbestos in a house or building:

  • Worn pipes and building insulation
  • Aging, crumbling drywall
  • Ceilings that are deteriorating
  • Discolored or broken floor tiles
  • Broken shingles
  • Damaged siding
  • Ridged, older cement roofing

Homebuyers who make offers on older homes may find that home inspections reveal issues, including evidence of asbestos, but steps can be taken to remediate problems. Those who are already living in older homes can take steps to check for asbestos to ensure that their families stay safe and healthy before undertaking new projects. Being proactive in this way can prevent later health problems.

When is Asbestos Typically Dangerous?

Laboratory testing is the best way prove asbestos presence. In most instances, left undisturbed, asbestos poses little risk. Problems usually occur when it is disturbed. Unfortunately, homeowners who do not know it is there can release the fibers into the air unknowingly when they are doing renovations.

If the presence of asbestos is suspected, it is never a good idea to vacuum or dust the area as this can release asbestos fibers into the air. Anyone nearby can end up inhaling them.

Always Practice Safety First

Asbestos should not be disturbed by anyone who is not professionally certified. Removing even a tiny sample can be dangerous and doing so is illegal in many states. Even though it may be legal in some states, homeowners may be risking their health by trying to remove it.

Homeowners who are thinking about disturbing possible traces of asbestos should research online for professional asbestos removers. Homeowners should hire certified asbestos inspectors to evaluate their homes and to gather up the samples in the safest ways possible.

Testing kits can be purchased online, but homeowners should carefully follow the instructions. It is also essential to make sure that all the air in the work area is still, so the fibers do not become airborne. All fans, air conditioners, and heaters should be turned off and windows tightly closed.

Additional precautions include wearing long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and face masks. Cotton and paper dust masks are not adequate as they only keep large molecules from being inhaled; asbestos fibers are pretty small and can enter through these masks or around their sides. The work area should also be covered with plastic sheeting to catch any dust that could swirl up.

Why is it Important to Hire a Professional?

Even when homeowners decide to risk asbestos removal on their own, it is still important to follow-up with a professional. There is always the chance of mistakes being made when this is not done by someone who is certified.

A professional can ensure that all procedures are followed properly and that all the asbestos in the home is detected and removed. Missing a spot could lead to problems in the future. It is also very important for homeowners to do thorough cleanings if they experience floods, fires, or other events that cause significant damage to their homes.

Homeowners who hire contractors to check for and remove asbestos can familiarize themselves with the process by looking at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website. Contractors are required to follow safety guidelines to prevent spreading or tracking the dust into homes, including marking off and sealing their work areas, using the proper tools and protective gear, and properly disposing asbestos.

How do Asbestos-Related Diseases Develop?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that forms underground. Once it is mined, it can be processed into different products. It is no longer mined in this country, but it can still be imported from other ones. Asbestos is still used for manufacturing brake pads.

When asbestos deteriorates over time, it may release hazardous fibers into the air. If inhaled, its fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. The latter affects the lining of the lungs and has a high mortality rate. There are other asbestos-related diseases as well, which causes close to 50,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.

When asbestos fibers are released into the air, it is easily inhaled, and the human body is unable to degrade the particles. Although the immune system recognizes the fibers as foreign matter, it is unable to properly destroy the particles. This causes cells to die and leak out enzymes that damage surrounding cells.

What Should I do if I Feel Sick?

Asbestos-related diseases can start out with flu, virus, or cold-like symptoms. If it is not addressed, it can lead to an illness that quickly progresses to the point where it is untreatable. If asbestos-related diseases are suspected, it is essential to contact a medical professional and to schedule a lung X-ray. Smokers with asbestos-related diseases are at even higher risk of developing lung cancer, so quitting the habit is strongly recommended.

There are other conditions caused by asbestos exposure besides mesothelioma that affect the pleura or lining of the lungs. Pleuritis happens when pleura is irritated, leading to difficulty breathing and pain. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, it can cause collagen to build up and harden, leading to pleural plaque. When fluid builds up in the pleura, it can lead to pleural effusions, which also causes breathing problems, chest pain, and coughing.

Some immunotherapy-based treatments can help mesothelioma, but treatments depend on the progress of the illness. Since symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to common illnesses, most patients are not aware that they have the disease. This is why it is highly important to see a medical professional if you believe you have been exposed to asbestos.

Can Asbestos Cause Other Health Issues?

In addition to mesothelioma, asbestosis, and pleural diseases, asbestos can cause other serious health problems, such as kidney cancer. Another illness it can cause is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. A study composed by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine showed that workers who were exposed to asbestos had a greater risk of developing COPD.

Each year, asbestos exposure causes approximately 250,000 deaths worldwide. Out of these deaths, tens of thousands are related to mesothelioma in the United States.

When Should I See a Lawyer?

Diagnosing mesothelioma can be difficult, and treatment options for mesothelioma can be very costly. After seeking a professional medical evaluation, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable lawyer. A lawyer will help you determine how you were exposed to asbestos and will help you receive necessary compensation for treatment. If you recently received a mesothelioma diagnosis, it is beneficial to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

Philadelphia Asbestos Lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler Help Clients Who Are Concerned About Asbestos Exposure

If you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to contact a certified company, your physician, and a lawyer right away. To better understand your rights, contact one of our experienced Philadelphia asbestos lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler. For a free consultation today, contact us online or call us at 215-569-4000. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.