You’re probably aware of the dangers of asbestos in your home. Most people know that any type of exposure to asbestos causes lung diseases and cancer. However, in order to keep clear of being exposed to the substance, you need to know where it can be found. In addition, because asbestos is fire resistant, and it blocks sound, it can be found in many different areas and products found in your home. Here are some of the most common places you’ll find asbestos.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to identify asbestos, unless you know precisely what you’re looking for. If the asbestos is non-friable, then it can seem like rock or concrete. Once it has broken open, it can look like fibreglass, or like cotton wool. The only way to be absolutely sure that you’re dealing with asbestos is to have asbestos specialists take samples of the material to a lab and test it for asbestos contamination. One thing is clear, though, is that you shouldn’t work with asbestos yourself. Don’t touch it, take samples or inspect it, because the exposure effects can be fatal.
Where Can You Find Asbestos?
Unfortunately, asbestos can be found almost anywhere. Due to it’s exceptional insulating, fire retardant and soundproofing properties, it was used extensively in building materials and everyday products. Until it was banned in the 80s in New Zealand, asbestos was used to build homes, offices, schools, public buildings and sheds.
There are three common types of asbestos used in New Zealand – blue, brown and white – and this was often mixed with other materials. These types of asbestos can be found in the following list of places and items; however, it is not a complete list.
- Asbestos cement products – pipes, flues, roofs.
- Ceiling tiles
- Insulation – around boilers, furnaces, pipes etc.
- Soundproofing materials
- Spray-on coatings
- Some plastics, paints and adhesives
- Exterior walls, plaster, joining compounds
- Roofs and gutters
- Water tanks
In New Zealand, the majority of asbestos was used for insulation and soundproofing homes, offices, schools and public buildings. The asbestos would be mixed with a binding agent and sprayed onto the area; however, it has also been found in ceilings, garages, sheds and more. In addition, because asbestos is fire retardant, it was also used as a spray to protect surfaces and structured steelwork from fires.
If you think you have asbestos in your home, it is vital that you check certain areas carefully, especially where the asbestos would be exposed. Asbestos insulation, for example, won’t necessarily be sealed, so if you’re going into attics, make sure that you go in wearing disposable overalls, P1-P2 respiratory masks and gloves.
If you suspect that there’s damaged asbestos elsewhere in your home, such as in unheated crawl spaces, open wall cavities, around exposed light fixtures or power outlets in the wall, you should also be careful. Wear protective clothing and try not to disturb it further. If you live in an older home, you should always consult a professional to conduct a survey – preferably before you buy it or renovate it.
Remember, anywhere there is insulation, wood, a fueled fireplace or a furnace in an older home, you can almost guarantee that you have asbestos in the surrounding wallpaper, coatings, and flooring.
Surprising Places You Wouldn’t Think To Find Asbestos
When you hear about asbestos, you usually think that it was only used in construction. However, not many people are aware that asbestos was actually used in numerous products which are used every day.
You might not realise how common asbestos actually was. Because it was so readily available and cheap to buy, it was even used to manufacture toasters, children’s toys, cigarette filters, hairdryers, and more. In fact, it was possible to be exposed to asbestos from almost every typical item you used every day.
By 1980, most hand-held hairdryers and toasters were filled with the hazardous toxin, because of its exceptional insulation properties. You could also find it being used as insulation around electrical cords, old domestic heaters, clothing irons, children’s pencils, and talcum powder.
Therefore, if you’re a collector of vintage goods, make sure to do your research. If they contain asbestos, you won’t want to be anywhere near them. Make sure that you know what you’re buying, and if you’re at risk of exposing yourself to asbestos dust.
The next time you’re thinking about renovating your home, collecting vintage pieces, or trying to repair an old piece of technology, think about the risk of asbestos exposure that you could be subjected to.
What Happens If You Find Asbestos
If you find asbestos in your home or at work, you need to take action immediately. In fact, you should stop all activities and ensure that you and others are away from the infected area. Even if you suspect that there’s asbestos in your immediate environment, you should take precautions – because it’s better to be safe than to have regrets. Follow these steps to limit the dangers to yourself and the people around you.
- Look for information on the building, and whether it was built before the year 2000. Older buildings will more likely have been constructed with asbestos in its building materials.
- If you find asbestos during renovations, the construction needs to end immediately and have everyone leave the area.
- Warn others around you about the contamination.
- Remove all tools and clothing which have been contaminated with asbestos dust.
- Call a professional. Asbestos specialists will arrive, inspect the area and begin removing the asbestos safely. Choose a professional that is certified and experienced. They’ll also need the proper certification to dispose of the asbestos safely.
Unfortunately, the only lasting solution to asbestos contamination in your home is to have it removed by an asbestos specialist. Because it’s such a dangerous risk to your health, you can’t afford to wait. Therefore, if you’re planning to renovate or do repairs on your ceilings, around the furnace, in the roof or garage, make sure that these areas are inspected for asbestos before the work begins. An asbestos specialist will be able to tell you if the asbestos they find is dangerous or not. However, if you want to be safe, you should have it removed, whether it’s intact or not.