Where to Find Asbestos in Your Home or Building
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Asbestos is a mineral that was first used and named by the Ancient Greeks. The name literally means “inextinguishable.”
Asbestos testing is very important because you often don’t know if particular material contains asbestos or not. Asbestos was a very common material that was used in everything from automobiles to textiles and was even common in ship building. The use of asbestos has dropped off considerably as the dangers of asbestos became more widely known and such knowledge could no longer be suppressed by the industries using that material.
Asbestos fibers are generally so small as to be invisible to the naked eye. It is this invisibility that makes them dangerous because they can cause considerable lung damage and cancer. Consequently this should always be done by professionals who know the health risks and know what to look for. The EPA requirement for asbestos testing is polarized light microscopy using specialized microscopes. This can determine the type and percentage of asbestos in a given material.
The Ancient Greeks used asbestos primarily as a type of woven cloth. But, even the Ancients noticed the harmful effects of asbestos and that slaves who did the weaving would often come down with a lung sickness.
It was the Industrial Revolution that made asbestos a popular commodity because of its many useful qualities and resiliency. Asbestos can be woven to be strong under pressure, to act as electrical insulation and can be blended into other materials, such as concrete for reinforcement.
Asbestos is the least dangerous when it is bonded, that is firmly mixed with other material so that asbestos fibers are unlikely to be released into the air unless the material itself is damaged. Bonded asbestos was used in wall sheeting, cement, drain pipes and flooring and in certain types of vinyl.
Far more dangerous is the use of asbestos in friable materials, that is materials that can be broken down easily, such as sprayed on asbestos fire retardant.
Asbestos exposure is still quite common because it was used so widely in the construction industry, railroads, shipyards and the auto industry. Exposure can also come from older buildings where asbestos was used in their construction. The problem is that while asbestos materials are usually safe if encapsulated or covered in some way, they can escape during demolition or renovation and become airborne.
So, its important to know where asbestos may be lurking, before performing renovations. It’s also important to know the possibility of asbestos if you are dealing with fire, flood or other types of damage.
Asbestos can be found in old floor tiles, and ceiling tiles around ducts, pipes, boilers and fireplaces. Asbestos was also used in Sheetrock and in pipe cement.
In short, it was everywhere. So, if you suspect asbestos, take the time and spend the money to run the proper tests, your health depends on it.