If you are a homeowner and you hear the word “asbestos” from a contractor one of the first things on your mind might be cost. Anyone who has watched HGTV knows that asbestos in a home can make or break a budget. You are probably also very concerned about the danger asbestos presents to you and your family.
You are correct to be concerned. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and there is no safe level of exposure. People exposed to asbestos are at increased risk of developing asbestos-caused cancers including mesothelioma, lung, gastrointestinal, laryngeal, colorectal, and ovarian cancers.
Unfortunately, asbestos has been used widely as a construction and fireproofing material since the end of the 19th century. Still to this day, up to 15,000 American die from preventable asbestos-caused diseases, and the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 125 million people across the world are exposed to asbestos in the workplace each year.
Simply put: Exposure to asbestos causes cancer and asbestos kills.
Cancer Prevention month serves as a reminder that when we hear “asbestos” we must think “cancer prevention.” Although promising research continues, exposure prevention is currently the only cure for asbestos-caused cancers. With greater awareness and a true sense of responsibility these exposure levels and deaths can be prevented.
Hear Asbestos. Think Prevention.
The first step to prevention is education. While many know asbestos is a costly and deadly danger, most people are unaware that asbestos is still lethal and legal in the United States, where they may encounter the deadly carcinogen, and how to safely dispose of it.
Asbestos fibers can be nearly 700 times smaller than a human hair and are odorless, tasteless, and indestructible. Home renovations and unintended disturbances can cause asbestos fibers to be released into the air.
If asbestos is so small, how can a homeowner know if they have asbestos in their house? You cannot know without the assistance of an asbestos professional. While you will not be able to tell if you have asbestos by site alone, this infographic shows the top locations where asbestos could be lurking in your home.
Asbestos is not just in our homes. In 1984, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the “Asbestos in Buildings National Survey”, which “estimated that asbestos-containing materials (ACM), existed in most of America’s approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools as well as 733,000 public and commercial buildings.” Furthermore, the EPA survey found that “approximately 34,800 schools were believed to have friable ACM, potentially exposing an estimated 15 million students and 1.4 million school employees.”
Even after the 1984 EPA asbestos survey confirmed the health dangers, asbestos use still continued. Between 1984 and 2015, the United States consumed 1,038,481 metric tons of asbestos “to meet manufacturing needs.”
When it comes to your home, you can protect yourself and prevent asbestos-caused cancers. The EPA has provided a thorough list of what homeowners should do if they think they have asbestos in their home. Here are the top four rules to follow.
Top Four Rules to Prevent Asbestos Exposure in Your Home
1. There is NO Safe Level of Asbestos Exposure. All six types of asbestos are carcinogenic.
2. Don’t Damage or Disturb the Asbestos. Take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material. Don’t track material that could contain asbestos through the house.
3. Don’t Touch the Asbestos. Leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone, and keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos. Especially limit children’s access to any materials that may contain asbestos. Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials. Don’t use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on flooring that may contain asbestos. Don’t sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing install new floor covering over it, if possible.
4. Work With a Professional. Have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. The EPA highly recommends that sampling and minor repair also be done by a trained and accredited asbestos professional. If the material is from a damaged area or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.
For more information, visit the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) online. Founded in 2004, ADAO is the largest, independent non-profit organization in the U.S. dedicated to preventing exposure to asbestos, eliminating asbestos-caused diseases, and protecting asbestos victims civil rights. You can also hear firsthand about the work currently underway to prevent asbestos-caused cancers by attending ADAO’s upcoming 12th Annual Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference, “Where Knowledge and Action Unite,” April 8 – 10, 2016 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Washington, D.C.
And if you think it is outrageous that this deadly toxin is still legal in our country, let Congress know today. Click here to tell your representatives that you want them to prevent asbestos-caused cancers by banning asbestos.
Linda Reinstein became a public heath advocate after her husband, Alan, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2003. One year later, she co-founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) which has become the largest independent non-profit in the U.S. dedicated to preventing asbestos-caused diseases through education, advocacy, and community initiatives. Reinstein has been a strong political voice for major local, national, and international asbestos-related issues and frequently serves as a Congressional witness.