CREDIT: The Lanier Law Firm | Full Article: Asbestos and Homeowners Guide

Asbestos is the name given to six silicate mineral fibers that occur naturally in the earth’s crust. It has been widely used in industry, residences, and consumer products. The individual fibers are microscopic and can be seen only with an electron microscope.

Handling, damaging or disturbing asbestos can release these fibers into the air, where they can be inhaled. The human body is unable to absorb or dissolve these fibers, so they lodge deeply into the lungs, causing scar tissue and cancer cells to develop over a period of 10 to 40 or more years.

Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of an aggressive and deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma impacts the thin tissues surrounding the lungs or abdomen. Other conditions associated with asbestos exposure include lung cancer and asbestosis, a painful inflammatory condition that causes scarring of the lungs.

Why was it used in homes?

Often referred to as a miracle mineral, these virtually indestructible fibers have been widely used in home construction for insulation, fireproofing, soundproofing, and much more. Asbestos is abundant and inexpensive. By the 1930s, it had become an important component of residential construction.

By the late 1930s, asbestos manufacturers were aware of the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure. However, many of those manufacturers actively concealed this information and continued mining and selling the hazardous product to industries throughout the world.

After the public became aware of its hazards, asbestos use in residential buildings was phased out by 1986 as manufacturers were allowed to use the existing supply.

What to Do If You Suspect Asbestos In Your Home

Although most uses of asbestos were banned in 1978, asbestos can occur in houses built during the 1980s, 1990s and later. Instances of asbestos contamination have been found in common compounds used in construction and home repair as late as 2007. Asbestos is also still legally used in products that enclose the asbestos, such as vinyl floor tiles, cement pipe, and asphalt roofing. If you encounter any product you believe is asbestos, do not touch it or disturb the surrounding structures, as this could release it into the air. The substance should be examined only by a testing professional.

Asbestos Testing

Asbestos testing is used to rule out or confirm the presence of asbestos and, if present, whether the asbestos is hazardous. It becomes hazardous when it is disturbed or damaged. Crumbly or easily torn asbestos, also known as friable asbestos, is always hazardous if it is not enclosed. However, well-maintained, intact asbestos does not release fibers into the air and is therefore not considered a threat to human health.

Asbestos testing is the only way to confirm the presence of asbestos. Asbestos removal companies require testing prior to removal.

The asbestos testing process includes the following procedures:

  • A visual examination
  • Careful collection of samples
  • Lab analysis of the samples
  • A written evaluation of the findings
  • A list of recommendations

If the asbestos is found to be well-contained and intact, the recommendation will most likely be to leave it in place. However, some homeowners prefer to take further action for peace of mind. If you decide to move forward with this process, never attempt it yourself. Always hire a professional abatement contractor.

What Not to Do With Asbestos

  • DO NOT panic. Undisturbed asbestos in good repair is usually safe.
  • DO NOT allow children or pets to access any area where asbestos could easily be disturbed
  • DO NOT sweep or vacuum debris that contains asbestos. Asbestos-containing debris should be wet mopped or vacuumed by a professional using special equipment.
  • DO NOT saw, sand, scrape or drill holes into asbestos-containing materials.
  • DO NOT strip, sand, or use abrasive equipment on flooring materials that contain asbestos.
  • DO NOT walk through asbestos debris.
  • DO NOT attempt to remove asbestos yourself.

Asbestos Removal

Asbestos removal is considered an extreme course of action. It is usually recommended only when asbestos is causing a hazard or at risk of causing a hazard that cannot otherwise be safely contained. It requires an evacuation of the area and, possibly, of the home for the duration of the process.

Abatement professionals must wear personal protective equipment, which includes suits and respirators. The abatement procedure is performed as follows:

  1. The work area is tightly sealed to prevent the release of fibers.
  2. The contractor uses hand tools and wet methods to carefully remove the asbestos.
  3. Asbestos materials are placed in double plastic bags that are six mm thick.
  4. HEPA filters and equipment are used to clean the air.
  5. In-progress inspections are performed.
  6. The work area is cleaned with HEPA vacuums and wiped down.
  7. A decontamination chamber that includes a shower will be established and utilized while leaving the work area.
  8. The area is retested to confirm the air is free of asbestos fibers.
  9. The plastic sheeting is removed, and the area is re-cleaned using the HEPA filter.
  10. Asbestos materials are properly marked and placed in a sealed dumpster at an approved asbestos disposal site. A DTSC (Department of Toxic Substance Control) certificate is required.

Asbestos can be recycled at approved facilities. Recycled asbestos can be converted to various silicate glass products that no longer contain the harmful mineral.


While it may be tempting to remove the asbestos yourself to avoid the cost of abatement, incorrect removal of asbestos is much more costly when you consider the deadly toll of asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma.

The investment in proper asbestos remediation will protect your health and buy you peace of mind for a lifetime.

CREDIT: The Lanier Law Firm | Full Article: Asbestos and Homeowners Guide

When it comes to where you call home, we are here to help you figure it out. Email my team at One Community Real Estate®, Leigh Brown & Associates, or reach me directly at 704-507-5500 today!

~ Leigh Brown