What is Asbestos?
Asbestos, once known as the
"miracle mineral," is the name of a group of naturally
occurring minerals. These minerals
separate into very long, thin, durable fibers, which make its use very
attractive for industrial use. This mineral can be found in many
different forms throughout Canada, Russia, South Africa, and in the
United States. The three most commonly used forms in commercial
applications are chrysotile (white
asbestos), amosite (brown
asbestos), and crocidolite (blue
asbestos). Asbestos is known for its insulating properties,
soundproofing, anti-corrosiveness, condensation control, its strength
enhancing properties, and resistance to heat and fire.
Where can Asbestos be Found?
Asbestos can be found in most
homes built or remodeled prior to 1979. Asbestos-containing building,
materials (ACBM) may vary between 1% and 100% in asbestos content.
are approximately 3600 asbestos containing products. Some of the most
common ones found in homes are listed below:
floor tiles and asbestos backed linoleum, resilient floor covering
Roofing and Siding Shingles
Sprayed-on ceilings between
1945 and 1978 ("popcorn")
Wall and ceiling joint
compounds before 1977
Insulation on boilers and
water heaters, pad under furnace
Textured paints before 1978
Roofing felts and tars
Pipe insulation between 1920
and 1972 (can be preformed insulation, paper wrap, tape or plaster)
Asbestos insulated wiring
Fuse box liners and stove door
Artificial fireplace ashes and
logs before 1977
Does Asbestos Pose Any Health
Threats to My Family or Employees?
Homeowners should be very careful
not to disturb Asbestos-containing material (ACM) when renovating or
doing repairs. When ACM is crushed or pulverized, asbestos fibers are
released into the air. Asbestos fibers can remain suspended in the air
for extended periods of time, increasing the risk of inhalation.
Once these fibers are inside the body, they remain there for years,
perhaps leading to asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung
cancer, and mesothelioma. Studies indicate that by far the majority of
individuals with asbestos-related diseases have been people in the
business of manufacturing, installing and removing asbestos products.
People exposed to small amounts of asbestos may not develop any related
health problems, however, there is no "safe" level known;
therefore, exposure to friable asbestos should be avoided.
How Can I Reduce the Risk of
Exposure in My Home or Business?
Under most circumstances asbestos
in good condition should be left alone. ACM that is not crumbly or
damaged poses little or no risk. If you as a homeowner must remove
ACM, we recommend that you research best management practices such as
containment and adequate wetting to reduce exposure to you and your
family. We recommend that you obtain and review materials
on handling asbestos. Some of these materials are located at www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/ashome.html#4.
By sufficiently wetting these materials and keeping them wet
during all demolition and handling activities, the homeowner can reduce
the possibility of creating a fiber release episode. In addition, such
materials should not be crushed, pulverized, abraded, grinded or sawed.
may also consult the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration web site, guidelines for Personal Protective Equipment at
You may also use a licensed
asbestos abatement contractor and insist they use emission control
procedures. If you are uncertain whether or not your home contains
asbestos-containing materials, a small bulk sample may be wetted, placed
in a double zip locked plastic freezer bag and submitted for analysis to
an environmental laboratory.
How Do I Dispose of the Asbestos?
Methods for disposal should comply with local rules
governing waste removal. By obtaining
knowledge about the ACM in your home, precautions can be taken to avoid
exposure before disturbing the materials. You may also contact the Texas
Commission on Environmental Quality for other appropriate guidance
measures to protect yourself from being exposed.