What is asbestos? Why did we use this mineral if it is dangerous for humans to breathe? How do I know if I have it in my home? These are all very valid questions from worry some people that are just learning about a naturally occurring mineral called asbestos. In this article, I will be talking about where asbestos comes from and how it was used, the risks of exposure from asbestos, and what to do if you’re worried about there being asbestos in your home.

Why Abestos Was Used

Asbestos comes from natural deposits that were once mined from all over the world. Raw asbestos is crushed to separate out the other minerals and usually leaves the asbestos in a wooly, soft material. It is not just a single material but a group of silicate minerals called chrysotile, crocidolite and amosite. Asbestos can be made into paper, cloth, rope and even be put into building material like cements, paints, sealants, plastics, etc. This mineral was used in America before 1989 and is now highly regulated but still not banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Before 1989, people loved asbestos for many reasons. In the “middle ages” they called asbestos the “magic” mineral because it was basically indestructible. Pure asbestos was combined with cloth, cement, or paper to make the other materials stronger. Not only did it make the materials stronger, but in fact, provided protection against fire, harsh weather conditions, and wear over time. With this information, why not use it in every building?

Health Risks

What people did not know was the risks associated with this magic mineral. When someone inhales or ingests asbestos dust, the minerals can forever become trapped in their body which can cause inflammation, scarring and cause genetic damage to body cells. The most exclusive disease caused by asbestos is mesothelioma which is a rare and aggressive cancer. These fibers can’t be seen, tasted or smelled so there is no way of actually knowing if there is asbestos around you, unless a sample of the material is taken and sent to a lab for testing. The highest risk occupations that deal with asbestos is construction, electrical workers, firefighters, military, mining and shipbuilders. The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry shows that around 27 million workers were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1979. 

Be Sure to Test Before Renovating

The biggest thing you should know about asbestos is that it will not harm you unless it is disturbed when you are going through renovation or demolition of a building. For example, if you have asbestos containing popcorn ceiling, it will not harm you unless you disturb the material by scraping it off. Before any material is disturbed, a lab should test it and if it comes back positive, an asbestos abatement professional should remove it. 

Asbestos falls into two risk categories: friable and non-friable asbestos materials. Friable is when asbestos materials are easy to break or crumble by hand which makes them more dangerous because it is easier to release toxic dust into the air. Non-friable is the exact opposite because the fibers are safely trapped unless disturbed. 

By the time medical evidence came out linking asbestos to cancer, it was too late and labor unions began to fight back. Most American companies phased out most use of asbestos by the 1980s, but it was too late for workers who dealt with asbestos products for years. 

When it comes to dealing with asbestos in your home, be sure to call more than just one abatement company to layout your pricing options and check to see who are the most experienced professionals in the industry. 

MSE Environmental is a supplier diversified environmental consulting and industrial hygiene firm. They specialize in inspections, testing and monitoring for insurance carriers, healthcare facilities, government entities, retail, financial institutions, facility managers, property managers, adjusters, general contractors, restoration contractors and hospitality verticals.  MSE Environmental educates, performs, reports and monitors your facility or structure reducing health concerns when dealing with asbestos, mold, bacteria, lead, water damage, Legionella and USP 800 testing. For more information, call (925) 723-0300.