Asbestos

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively  identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of  asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to  strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. InterNACHI  inspectors can supplement their knowledge with the information offered in this  guide.
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How Can Asbestos Affect My  Health?
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in  factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers  can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in the forms of mesothelioma, which  is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and asbestosis,  in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.

The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increase with the  number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers  is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been  exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these  diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first  exposure to asbestos.

Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are  in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed,  asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the  lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of  disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has  been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health  hazard.

Where Can I Find Asbestos and When Can it Be a  Problem?
Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few  products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to  be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products  and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that  might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release  fibers, include:
  • steam pipes, boilers and furnace ducts insulated with an  asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos  fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly;
  • resilient floor tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt and rubber),  the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and adhesives used for installing floor  tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers, and so may scraping or sanding the  backing of sheet flooring during removal;
  • cement sheet, millboard and paper used as insulation around  furnaces and wood-burning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release  asbestos fibers, and so may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing  insulation;
  • door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves and coal stoves. Worn  seals can release asbestos fibers during use;
  • soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and  ceilings. Loose, crumbly or water-damaged material may release fibers, and so  will sanding, drilling or scraping the material;
  • patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings, and  textured paints. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release  asbestos fibers;
  • asbestos cement roofing, shingles and siding. These products  are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled or cut;
  • artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired  fireplaces, and other older household products, such as fireproof gloves,  stove-top pads, ironing board covers and certain hairdryers; and
  • automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets.
Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found in the Home
  • Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement.
  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation.
  • Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on  wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.
  • Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain  asbestos.
  • Older products, such as stove-top pads, may have some asbestos compounds.
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves may be protected with asbestos  paper, millboard or cement sheets.
  • Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet  flooring and adhesives.
  • Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos  material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos  insulation.

What Should Be Done About Asbestos in the  Home?

If you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic.   Usually, the best thing to do is to leave asbestos material that is in good  condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos  fibers. There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed and fibers are  released and then inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you  suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or  damage, such as tears, abrasions or water damage. Damaged material may release  asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting,  rubbing or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow.  Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit  access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos  gloves, stove-top pads and ironing board covers. Check with local health,  environmental or other appropriate agencies to find out proper handling and  disposal procedures. If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if  you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or  removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find  out whether asbestos materials are present.
How to Identify Materials that Contain  Asbestos
You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by  looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it  contains asbestos, or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional.  A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what  to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are  released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than  leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you  nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release  asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good  condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left  alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled.  Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information  as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling and, at a minimum,  should observe the following procedures:
  • Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is  done.
  • Wear disposable gloves or wash hands after sampling.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the  spread of any released fibers.
  • Do not disturb the material any more than is needed to take a  small sample.
  • Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be  sampled.
  • Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few  drops of detergent before taking the sample. The water/detergent mist will  reduce the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material  using a small knife, corer or other sharp object. Place the small piece into a  clean container (a 35-mm film canister, small glass or plastic vial, or  high-quality resealable plastic bag).
  • Tightly seal the container after the sample is in it.
  • Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel  to clean up any material on the outside of the container or around the area  sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local procedures.
  • Label the container with an identification number and clearly  state when and where the sample was taken.
  • Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of  duct tape to prevent fiber release.
  • Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory accredited  by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Your state or local  health department may also be able to help.
How to Manage an Asbestos  Problem
 
If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be  disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections:  repair and removal. Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos  material. Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant  that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so  that fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can  sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional  trained to handle asbestos safely. Covering (enclosure) involves placing  something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent the  release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective  wrap or jacket. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair  is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make removal of asbestos later (if  found to be necessary) more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or  minor. Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for  safely handling asbestos. Minor repairs should also be done by professionals,  since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is  disturbed.
Repairs 
 
Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended, since  improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed.  If you nevertheless choose to do minor repairs, you should have as much  information as possible on the handling of asbestos before doing anything.  Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for  information about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school  district may also have information about asbestos professionals and training  programs for school buildings. Even if you have completed a training program, do  not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs,  carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a  general rule, any damaged area which is bigger than the size of your hand is not  considered a minor repair.

Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the  precautions described previously for sampling asbestos material. Always wet  the asbestos material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of  detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas are  available. Small areas of material, such as pipe insulation, can be covered by  wrapping a special fabric, such as re-wettable glass cloth, around it. These  products are available from stores (listed in the telephone directory under  “Safety Equipment and Clothing”) which specialize in asbestos materials and  safety items.

Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless  required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in  most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber  release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major  changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be  called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise  repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special  training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and  your family.
Asbestos Professionals: Who Are They and What Can They  Do?
Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos  material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what  needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos  contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products  containing asbestos.
Asbestos professionals can conduct home inspections,  take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and  advise on the corrections that are needed, as well as who is  qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need  not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or  abatement contractors repair and remove asbestos materials.
Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment  and correction. A professional hired to assess the need for corrective action  should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm. It is better to use  two different firms so that there is no conflict of interest. Services vary from  one area to another around the country.
The federal government offers training courses for  asbestos professionals around the country. Some state and local governments  also offer or require training or certification courses. Ask asbestos  professionals to document their completion of federal or state-approved  training. Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of  training and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved  training. State and local health departments or EPA regional offices may have  listings of licensed professionals in your area.

If you have a problem that requires the  services of asbestos professionals, check their credentials carefully. Hire  professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable and accredited —  especially if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a  professional, ask for references from previous clients. Find out if they were  satisfied. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations. Get cost  estimates from several professionals, as the charges for these services can  vary.

Though private homes are usually not covered  by the asbestos regulations that apply to schools and public buildings,  professionals should still use procedures described in federal or  state-approved training. Homeowners should be alert to the chance of misleading  claims by asbestos consultants and contractors. There have been reports of firms  incorrectly claiming that asbestos materials in homes must be replaced. In other  cases, firms have encouraged unnecessary removal or performed it  improperly. Unnecessary removal is a waste of money. Improper removal may  actually increase the health risks to you and your family. To guard against  this, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are  needed to do the job properly.

In addition to general asbestos contractors,  you may select a roofing, flooring or plumbing contractor trained to handle  asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, flooring, siding or  asbestos-cement pipe that is part of a water system. Normally, roofing and  flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements  because they do not perform any other asbestos-correction work.

Asbestos-containing automobile brake pads  and linings, clutch facings and gaskets should be repaired and replaced only by  a professional using special protective equipment. Many of these products are  now available without asbestos.
If you hire an InterNACHI  inspector who is trained in asbestos inspection:
  • Make sure that the inspection will include a complete visual  examination, and the careful collection and lab analysis of samples. If asbestos  is present, the inspector should provide a written evaluation describing its  location and extent of damage, and give recommendations for correction or  prevention.
  • Make sure an inspecting firm makes frequent site visits if it  is hired to assure that a contractor follows proper procedures and requirements.  The inspector may recommend and perform checks after the correction to assure  that the area has been properly cleaned.

If you  hire a corrective-action contractor:

  • Check with your local air pollution control board, the local  agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau. Ask if the  firm has had any safety violations. Find out if there are legal actions filed  against it.
  • Insist that the contractor use the proper equipment to do the  job. The workers must wear approved respirators, gloves and other protective  clothing.
  • Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work  plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the  contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal  procedures). Contact your state and local health departments, EPA regional  office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regional office  to find out what the regulations are. Be sure the contractor follows local  asbestos removal and disposal laws. At the end of the job, get written assurance  from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.
  • Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking  asbestos dust into other areas of your home. They should seal off the work area  from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and duct tape, and also turn  off the heating and air conditioning system. For some repairs, such as pipe  insulation removal, plastic bags may be adequate. They must be sealed with tape  and properly disposed of when the job is complete.
  • Make sure the work site is clearly marked as a hazardous area.  Do not allow household members or pets into the area until work is  completed.
  • Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the  asbestos material with a hand sprayer that creates a fine mist before removal.  Wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to  clean up.
  • Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into  smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air. Pipe insulation  was usually installed in pre-formed blocks and should be removed in complete  pieces.
  • Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area  well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate  air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used. Wetting helps  reduce the chance of spreading asbestos fibers in the air. All asbestos  materials and disposable equipment and clothing used in the job must be placed  in sealed, leakproof, and labeled plastic bags. The work site should be visually  free of dust and debris. Air monitoring (to make sure there is no increase of  asbestos fibers in the air) may be necessary to assure that the contractor’s job  is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the  contractor.
Caution! 

Do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.  These actions will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the  air. Remove dust by wet-mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by  trained asbestos contractors.

I am Thankful to InterNACHI, and their associates and the Certified Home Inspectors, for this very informative article made available in the best interest of public.

This Article is From:  Asbestos – Int’l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/asbestos.htm?utm_source=Agents+Only&utm_campaign=2a0dcc7fcb-The_best_service_copy_02_6_6_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_231389c46f-2a0dcc7fcb-28867833#ixzz2aHMOmQVy

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