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ASBESTOS

It is not uncommon to encounter material containing asbestos in homes. You can not tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it. Asbestos fibers were added to materials to make them durable and fire resistant. The mere presence of asbestos materials in a home is not usually a problem or hazard, as long as the material is intact and in good condition. The only time for concern is when a material has become friable which means is can be reduced to dust by hand pressure, releasing the fibers into the air where they can be inhaled into the lungs and cause health problems.

Some of the more common areas where asbestos can be found are resilient floor tiles, insulation for heating equipment, certain roof and siding shingles, and artificial embers and ashes for gas fireplaces. As with most environmental hazards, the health effects symptoms do not appear until after long-term exposure, usually 20 to 30 years. Small amounts of exposure for short periods of time are not considered a hazard. Unless the material is labeled, the only way to identify it is with a special type of microscope.

If asbestos is identified in the home, simple precautions include:

1) If it is in good condition, just leave it alone. Avoid damaging the material.

2) Encapsulation of asbestos, which means sealing it in a non-permeable material.
Do not dust, sweep or vacuum any material that contains asbestos. An example of encapsulation of heat pipe insulation would be to wear safety clothing and a respirator, spray soapy water over the insulation, wrap in plastic kitchen wrap, enclose the kitchen wrap in quality duct tape, paint duct tape with an acrylic latex paint and properly dispose of safety clothing. The EPA has approved certain materials that can be painted with an airless sprayer. For resilient floor tiles, encapsulation would be achieved by not disturbing the existing tile and covering the tile with new underlayment and/or new applied sheet goods.

3) Removal of the asbestos containing material. This has to be done to EPA standards, by EPA listed contractors, and can be quite expensive. Disposal of asbestos in conventional landfills is prohibited by the EPA. Disposal would occur when it would be necessary to remove an existing roof covering or siding material. In this case, it would be advisable to contract the service of an EPA approved contractor.

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