Asbestos and Indoor Air
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a long thin flexible silky fibrous magnesium silicate material which is toxic. It is strong enough to resist high temperatures, chemical attack and wear. A poor conductor, it insulates well against heat and electricity. It is mined from the ground. Asbestos exposure becomes a health concern when high concentrations of asbestos fibers are inhaled over a long time period. Asbestos exposure is primarily dangerous when the fibers become airborne and are inhaled. Asbestos fibers are usually released in asbestos-containing materials that are damaged or otherwise compromised. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious illness – cancers and lung diseases!
Manufacturers used it because of its resistance to heat, electrical and chemical damage, sound absorption and tensile strength. In buildings it was used because of its flame retardant and insulating properties. Uses included caulking, putty, roof patching, heat, fire, and acid resistant gaskets, fire retardant coatings, driveway coatings, heating vents, concrete, bricks, pipes and fireplace cement, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, flooring, roofing tars, felts, siding, shingles, lawn furniture, wallboard, fireproof drywall, drywall joint compound, plasters, textured and latex paints, acoustic ceiling tiles, “transite” panels, exterior siding, countertops, and interior fire doors. Vermiculite was used as a replacement for asbestos. Sometimes found as attic insulation in buildings. Talc is sometimes contaminated with asbestos, so any product containing it may also.
Why is it bad?
Since the 1980’s most countries have banned its use. In 1989 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule which was subsequently overturned in the case of Corrosion Proof Fittings vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1991. This ruling leaves many consumer products that can still legally contain trace amounts of asbestos. Asbestos continues to be used in construction such as cement asbestos pipes. The most common is corrugated asbestos-cement sheets or “A/C Sheets” for roofing and for side walls. Millions of homes, factories, schools or sheds and shelters continue to use asbestos.
Naturally occurring asbestos come from naturally occurring deposits and many populated areas are in near proximity to shallow, natural deposits which occur in 50 of 58 California counties and in 19 other U.S. states.
If you suspect asbestos might be present you should hire a professional inspector. Do not disturb the area. That could cause fibers to be released into the air where they could be inhaled. Call us for a professional inspection and certified lab tests. If asbestos is found, then a professional experienced contractor will be needed.
It is a complex and expensive matter to remove asbestos. When disturbing an asbestos product, maximum precautions must be taken to safeguard the workers and anybody else who may be nearby. Asbestos dust must remain within the work area so that it cannot be breathed in by unprotected persons. The area must be contained so as not to contaminate the rest of the building and endanger people.