Greening that “first home” means safety too…

(I typically don’t do “guest posts”, but sometimes there are important topics I simply know very little about… asbestos is one of those topics. Today I am allowing a guest post by Ben Stillwater, freelance writer for Asbestos News, an online resource on asbestos and mesothelioma cancer.  I believe you’ll find the information both informative and important.)

asbests hazzI remember that moving into the first home we bought, excited kids in tow, was a huge step towards the family stability that all of us trek toward one step at a time.  If you’re like most parents, there are fixer-upper projects that become on-the-job training for us and like many OJT tasks, research is the difference between an acceptable job and a restart.  In homes built before about 1975, remodeling can also be a safety issue because prior to that date, homes were built with many products that contain asbestos.  What tens of thousands of twentieth century industrial workers learned the hard way is that inhaling asbestos fibers can lead, decades later, to asbestos cancer, which in its most lethal form, is known as mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibers are generated in the form of microscopic particles that drift in those dust clouds we generate in projects that involve removing old housing materials.  They are generated by crumbling, deteriorating asbestos products or by the cutting, sanding, or scraping that goes on in any remodeling task.  If possible, the first thing you want to do is have tests done on any household product you intend to remove for asbestos content.  Most states have their own asbestos abatement programs, and they are a good source of information about removal and about getting materials tested.  A list of state agencies responsible for asbestos is a good place to start, as is this list of EPA regional offices.asbests imprvmt

Here are some products to be concerned about: ceiling tiles, floor tiles, old linoleum, floor adhesives, wall joint compound, roofing tiles, siding, cement, textured paint, spackling and home insulation.  Pipe insulation in older homes is often wrapped in asbestos blankets.  Here is some good general information from the EPA on household asbestos and also some suggestions for moms and families who are living in an older home going through a rejuvenation program:

Keep the dust from your remodeling under control. If you’re dismantling, scraping or cutting old, crumbling stuff, wear breathing protection and clean up the dust after every session in order to minimize exposure for your kids.  If your wall insulation is forty years old and adequate, leave it in place.  Undisturbed asbestos products won’t give off fibers. If you’re in a home with old, blown in insulation (particularly vermiculite) consider having a professional asbestos abatement company remove it.  Loose, deteriorating asbestos products require professional management.

asbests fbrThe only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos, which finds its way into the body through inadvertent inhalation.  While most victims were exposed on multiple occasions on job sites, some cases have resulted from brief exposure.  The insidious thing about the disease is that mesothelioma symptoms don’t begin to manifest for decades after the exposure has occurred.  Protecting your household from asbestos dust today is really protecting your family from catastrophic health problems well into the future.

(Thanks for the terrific information, Ben!)