If you don't already know what asbestos is, it's a naturally occurring mineral substance that can be pulled off in a fluffy substance. The fibers are resistant to heat, electricity, and chemical corrosion. There are two types: serpentine and amphibole. Asbestos is dangerous because, once the fibers are in the body, they never dissolve and the body has trouble expelling them. Trapped asbestos fibers can cause inflammation, scarring, and damage to cells. In the worst cases, these fibers can cause diseases and, in some cases, lung cancer. Here are 9 areas of your home where asbestos may be lingering. If you do find asbestos, do not touch it. Leave it alone and contact an asbestos specialist immediately to be treated.
1. Roofs and siding. If your roof is old enough to have asbestos, it's time to replace it.
2. Flooring. The backside of vinyl sheet flooring and flooring adhesives can contain asbestos. If the floor is damaged (cracked or gouged) sweeping or vacuuming could release dangerous fibers. First seal or remove and replace it.
3. Pipe insulation. Because asbestos is resistant to heat, it used to be used to insulate hot water pipes. If your pipes have an asbestos covering that is in tact, leave it be and encapsulate it. If it's ripped or torn, remove and replace.
4. Wallboard and joint compound. Wallboard and joint compound around stoves and fireplaces also used asbestos. Something as simple as patching a hole or sanding could release those hazardous fiber into the air.
5. Popcorn ceilings. Common in homes built between 1960-1980, the coating of popcorn ceilings used to be made from asbestos fibers. If you do have these retro ceilings, get them tested by a professional. If asbestos is found and you don't intend on scraping the ceilings, leave be and seal it. If you do want to scrape the ceilings, be sure to hire a professional.
6. Wallpaper. Wallpaper adhesives made in the '80s were made with asbestos. In tact wallpaper is best left alone. If it's torn or damaged in any way, have it professionally removed and replaced or repainted.
7. Wall and ceiling insulation. Insulation of homes dating back to the 1930s-50s may contain lingering asbestos. Again, if there is no damage to your walls or ceilings, leave it alone. If there is any visible insulation or you plan to remodel, hire a professional to check and remove/replace.
8. Furnaces and broilers. Again, asbestos was commonly used insulation around furnaces, broilers, stoves, and fireplaces.
9. Curtains and fabrics. Believe it or not, but people once paid top dollar for high quality fabrics that contained asbestos. Because they were heat resistant and flame retardant, they were once labeled the "safest fabrics." If you encounter any of these (typically in an older home), avoid and dispose of them.
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