How do I know if my home contains asbestos?

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If you live in a house built prior to 1980, chances are good that at least some of the building materials in your home contain asbestos. Asbestos was used extensively for many years, especially in manufacturing and construction, because of its strength and fire-retardant properties.

Asbestos is now widely known as a human carcinogen, a substance that is known to cause cancer in humans. Lung, colon and esophageal cancers are the most common and can be treated, but malignant mesothelioma is always fatal.

Unfortunately, it was not until the 1970s that some uses for asbestos were banned. This means that many homes built between the 1940s and the 1980s contain materials laced with asbestos, such as insulation, taping used on ductwork, textured paint and roofing, siding and flooring materials.

Asbestos is still used in the U.S.

Despite being a highly toxic substance, asbestos is still allowed in the U.S. for many commonly used products including:

  • Vinyl flooring tiles
  • Roofing felt
  • Cement shingles
  • Automatic transmission auto parts
  • Certain types of automobile brake components

How can I protect myself from asbestos in my house?

The slightest disturbance of building materials that contain asbestos can release the deadly fibers into the air. The best thing to do is not disturb anything that may contain asbestos. However, if you note damage -- a rip in tape on your ductwork, a water-stained ceiling tile -- or you are planning to remodel a portion of your home, you should consult an accredited asbestos professional regarding repair or removal of the toxic materials.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides helpful information regarding how best to protect your family, including a list of do's and don'ts for homeowners.

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