Constructing buildings takes a lot of work and energy from a large team of people. It requires people to create the materials, ship those materials to the work site and people to put these materials together and create something from the pieces.
They work countless hours trying to make that building a safe place for people to live, work or congregate. The finished product may be shiny and new, but the wear and tear along with other unforeseen developments are what the building ends up being in the long run.
When buildings were being constructed back in the 20th century, one of these unforeseen developments was the use of asbestos in the building materials. This didn't seem like a problem at the time; however, we've come to know that asbestos is a very dangerous substance that can lead to serious and even fatal health conditions.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is usually found in older buildings when they're being remodeled or torn down. It was a common material to use in construction due to its resistance to elements like fire and electrical currents. What the contractors and builders didn't consider were the long-term effects of this material.
Simply put, asbestos is a connection of six fibrous minerals that occur naturally over time. There are two different types of asbestos: serpentine asbestos and amphibole asbestos. Serpentine asbestos is the most common type and accounts for 95 percent of all asbestos used in building materials.
True to its name, the mineral fibers found in serpentine asbestos resemble a curl-like shape. Amphibole asbestos looks very different because it resembles more needle-like fibers when looked at up close through a microscope. Both types of asbestos are hazardous to a person's health; however, the amphibole asbestos is considered slightly more dangerous. This is due to the fact that it takes less exposure to the needle-like fibers to result in the development of a disease.
Asbestos is considered highly hazardous because it can cause diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. The most worrisome part of being exposed to asbestos is that it can take up to 50 years before you begin noticing symptoms of these diseases.
Asbestos fibers become dangerous when they're disrupted by any type of movement. When the fibers are disturbed, they become airborne, which is how people come into contact with them. They unknowingly inhale the fibers since they're microscopic, and the fibers then cling to tissues inside the body.
Knowing where to find asbestos in your home is key in keeping your family as safe as possible. If your home was built before 1980, a good place to start is to look at the ceiling. Don't let the ceiling's appearance fool you because asbestos can be hiding in everything from the tiles to the paint used to cover the popular popcorn finish from that time period.
Popcorn ceiling finishes became a way to add texture to your ceiling after the 1930s. It was an extremely popular method to use until the 1990s when people realized that it no longer held the visual appeal it once did. Since asbestos can be found in paint, popcorn ceiling finishes can potentially be carriers and should be investigated further to make sure they don't contain the harsh material.
Ceiling tiles were another popular method of finishing ceilings between 1950 and 1980 and must also be tested to make sure they're free of asbestos. Asbestos popcorn ceiling removal is extremely important as well as the removal of the asbestos ceiling tiles; however, they must be tested before demolition begins.
The only way to know for certain if your ceiling tiles or popcorn ceiling contains asbestos is to have it tested by a professional. You can't tell with the naked eye if the materials used to finish your ceiling contain asbestos because the asbestos ceiling tiles and those without essentially look the same.
A good place to start is to try and find out which company makes the material that was used to finish your ceiling. Companies such as Celotex, Affa Tile Company, National Gypsum, Gyptone and Gold Bond are just a few that are known to have traces of asbestos in their products.
Dangers of Asbestos
As previously mentioned, materials found with proven traces of asbestos are extremely dangerous to one's health. What makes the asbestos so dangerous is that you can't tell when materials contain these harmful fibers unless you get the material professionally assessed and tested. Testing for asbestos isn't expensive and should cost around $50; however, the waiting period for the results can't be determined since the sample usually needs to be sent to a lab.
While testing for asbestos isn't very expensive, many people may try to get around doing the tests because they wish to get their project done quickly. They may also jump into renovations without thinking of the potential risks, so make sure that all precautions are taken before you attempt to begin any project. Since the symptoms of any disease related to asbestos exposure can't be determined for many years after coming into contact with it, it's difficult to accept the seriousness behind this harmful material.
A very common disease that can develop from exposure is asbestosis. This is a chronic noncancerous lung disease that doesn't yet have a cure. It's a degenerative condition that affects the respiratory system, making it shut down over time. It's caused by plaques of scar tissue that form on the surface of the lung tissue and can be the first steps in developing mesothelioma. Someone can develop the asbestosis disease by breathing in as little as a few particles of asbestos, and unfortunately, this disease eventually results in death.
Mesothelioma is another common disease that arises due to asbestos exposure. This is a rare form of lung cancer and, like asbestosis, doesn't have a cure. It's a very aggressive cancer that affects the membrane that protects vital organs in the abdomen and chest regions. It has been medically verified that the sole cause for this disease is in fact exposure to asbestos products. People who are most at risk of developing this disease are those who work in the fields of mining, ship loading or truck driving.
Over 500,000 reported deaths occurred in the last 100 years due to asbestos-related diseases in the United States alone. This statistic shows how serious asbestos exposure can be and that we should be doing everything we can to avoid using any products that may contain traces of asbestos. The potential threat of it being found in your home shouldn't be taken lightly, so all forms of precaution should be taken.
How to Safely Remove Asbestos Ceiling Tiles
While it might not seem like such a daunting job to remove ceiling tiles yourself, it's extremely dangerous to be around the asbestos ceiling tiles. If you have any reason to believe that your home may contain asbestos, the first thing you should do is completely seal off the area. Exposure can happen by mistake since the tiles only need to be moved or touched to be considered dangerous.
The area in question must be completely sealed off and clearly labeled to avoid any mistakes or people entering the area by accident. Removing the ceiling tiles or attempting the asbestos popcorn ceiling removal yourself should be out of the question. Look into hiring a professional to first come and test the material. In order for the product to be considered hazardous, it needs to contain as little as 1 percent of asbestos.
It's vital to have a professional come and remove the asbestos tiles because they'll be fully equipped and know how to handle the situation properly. There's special gear that needs to be worn to cover the entire body including a mask to protect your airways. Without this gear, you'll be putting your health at risk by being exposed to the asbestos material.
Make sure to look into your local laws regarding asbestos. In many areas, self-removal of asbestos is illegal, so hiring a professional to do it for you is the only way to rid yourself of this dangerous product. If you do attempt to remove the asbestos yourself, even though it's highly unrecommended, you need to dispose of all items that were used to remove the asbestos immediately after the project is complete. Don't put the contaminated items in the regular trash because this is illegal.
Since discovering the dangers of asbestos, it became vital to find alternatives to use that wouldn't harm one's health over the course of time. Asbestos has very advantageous characteristics, especially when it comes to retaining warmth like in insulation. A good alternative for insulation materials that won't contain traces of asbestos are products such as cellulose fibers or polyurethane foams.
Cellulose fibers are one of the most popular materials to replace asbestos insulation. It's made from finely shredded newspaper and is considered far less dangerous to one's health in comparison to the asbestos material. Not only is it good for retaining heat, but like asbestos, it has been developed so that it's fire resistant by being treated with certain chemicals. It also comes with the added benefit of the chemical treatment being effective in counteracting the development of mold in buildings.
Polyurethane foams are also used for insulation. They're beneficial because they don't emit any type of harmful gases when they're sprayed or over the course of time. They're not inferior in any way, and their manufacturers claim that they can help reduce the use of energy in your home by 30 to 35 percent.
While all these options are just as efficient and better for your overall health, it's possible that they still may not be chosen during construction or renovations projects. If you've hired a professional to do any type of building or renovating in your home, make sure all the products they're using contain zero traces of asbestos. Asbestos products aren't yet banned in the United States, meaning there's a possibility that your home may contain traces of asbestos if you're not careful and haven't done your research of the products used in your home.
Taking on the role of the household's 'handyman' was a natural path for me. Watching my dad as a child be able to fix anything made me want to be just like him. Now with a toolbox of my own I tackle any task that my home throws my way. If the task can be accomplished with my own two hands, I have never been the type to hire someone else to do it. There is nothing more satisfying than staring at your completed project while you brush some dirt from your hands.