Where is it?
Asbestos, once considered a miracle product given its extreme resistance to high temperatures and decay, gradually found its way into thousands of products. Luckily, only a few of these products are regularly found in homes in a form that could easily make harmful dust.
The most common asbestos problem in homes is insulation wrap on pre-1960’s steam or hot water heating pipes. We also occasionally find asbestos insulation on pre-1960 heating ducts or water supply pipes.
What is wrong with asbestos?
While breathing asbestos dust is dangerous, it is otherwise harmless. History has clearly shown that repeated high exposure to asbestos dust significantly increases the risk of getting lung cancer. Studies have proven, however, that health risks from household asbestos exposures are far less. In fact, economic studies have shown that much of the money spent on asbestos abatement in the 1980’s would have had more positive health and safety impact if spent elsewhere.
What should I do?
- Hire a home inspector who will point out the common forms of asbestos if he/she sees them. Home inspectors cannot guarantee an asbestos-free home.
- If desired, hire a toxic-material specialist to do a more thorough inspection for asbestos. In my opinion applying your inspection dollars elsewhere would probably be more productive, however the choice is up to you.
- If asbestos is found in reasonable condition and not likely to be disturbed, the EPA currently suggests it should be left in place. If the asbestos material is in poor condition or in an area of high use, then abatement by either encapsulation or complete removal should probably be carried out. Any abatement work should be performed by professionals following EPA protocol. More information on asbestos is available from the EPA and asbestos abatement contractors.