What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is heat-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and does not dissolve in water. Because of these properties, it was used in all kinds of construction materials beginning in the late 1800s. It was especially prized for fireproofing buildings and materials. It wasn’t until the 1980s that scientists discovered that asbestos was a significant health hazard. Since then, it has become heavily regulated. In spite of this regulation, dangerous levels of asbestos can still be found in many buildings.
What Makes Asbestos So Dangerous?
Asbestos may look harmless, but don’t be fooled. When disturbed, microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne and can get lodged in your lungs. Your body can’t expel these particles, so they cling to your airways, doing damage for as long as you live.
Asbestos is linked to a number of serious diseases, including lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer, asbestosis (a condition where tiny, sharp fibers cause lung scarring), and, worst of all, mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks a layer of tissue that surrounds many of your organs. It spreads quickly and is often fatal. Most people diagnosed with this cancer pass away within 4-18 months. Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of mesothelioma. Every year, over 200,000 people die of Asbestos-related diseases. Even a brief exposure to asbestos can cause problems decades later. Having asbestos in your home is like living in a minefield. If you accidentally disturb it while you’re cleaning or remodeling, or if your child or pets go poking around in areas with asbestos-containing materials, millions of tiny toxic particles will erupt into the air of your house and get caught in your and your loved ones’ lungs.
What Does Asbestos Look Like?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if something is asbestos just by looking at it. Individual asbestos fibers are so thin you can’t see them with the naked eye, so any sample needs to be looked at under a microscope by an expert. However, there are a few indicators that a material could be asbestos.
There are three types of asbestos: chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.
- Chrysotile: This is the most common asbestos variety. It’s also the least dangerous. It’s grey or white with layered, curly fibers.
- Amosite: This is the second most commonly used kind of asbestos. It poses a much greater risk of cancer than chrysotile. It is brown in color.
- Crocidolite: This is the most dangerous kind of asbestos because it has extremely thin, sharp fibers.
If you see a material that matches this description, call a specialist. Remember, the eyeball test alone isn’t enough. You’ve got to send your sample to the lab.
How Do I Know if There is Asbestos in My Home or Place of Business?
Before people were aware that asbestos was dangerous, they used it for A LOT of stuff. There are many places in your home or workplace that may be lurking, especially if your house was built prior to the mid-1980s. Here are just a few:
- Vermiculite insulation found in walls and attics
- Roofing shingles and siding
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Paint, particularly textured or “popcorn” ceilings
- Walls and floors around fireplaces or wood-burning stoves
- Materials coating hot water and steam pipes
- Insulation around furnaces
- Electric switchboard panels
- Plumbing fixtures
- Plasters, putty, and caulk
- Ceiling tiles
- Drywall and cement sheets
- Vehicle clutches and breaks
- Heat-resistant fabrics
If you have reason to suspect that there is asbestos in your house or place of business, call us. In addition to carefully inspecting the materials on your property, there are devices to monitor air quality to detect airborne asbestos fibers anywhere in your house or workplace. Once identified, our team can schedule asbestos remediation.
When purchasing a new home or building for business, and particularly, older or landmark properties, it’s important that you have a professional conduct an asbestos inspection. While asbestos is usually found in old buildings, this is not always the case. Asbestos is heavily regulated, but it is not banned in the United States. Some building materials still contain asbestos, so be careful!
Asbestos screenings are also important after floods and other natural disasters. Asbestos that has been undisturbed for years can shed particles into the air when damaged. Additionally, in Massachusetts, asbestos screening is required by law before any demolition project beings. This keeps workers from being exposed to unsafe levels of asbestos.
How Do I Get Rid of Asbestos?
Only highly-trained experts with the proper safety gear should ever attempt asbestos removal. Should you discover asbestos in your own property, do not go near it, and keep others away. If possible, isolate the room from any ventilation as well, to prevent it escaping into the building’s atmosphere. Then call in the professionals at ACM.
The exact process of removing the asbestos will depend on what form it’s in. However, expect the area to be completely sealed off and airtight, while we work on safe removal and containment.
Handling any asbestos-containing materials is dangerous for the inexperienced. Damaged materials can shed hazardous airborne fibers. Without the proper training, removing asbestos can put you at risk.
Once we’ve cleared the asbestos from your home or building, using proper safety techniques and appropriate personal protective equipment, we dispose of it in a safe, environmentally friendly manner in accordance with state and federal regulations.
We also provide high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to capture all the stray asbestos particles that may be floating around the building. Once we remove the hazardous materials, we wrap them in plastic to prevent the release of airborne fibers and take them to designated disposal sites to be buried.
Partner with ACM to handle your commercial and residential asbestos inspection and removal. With over twenty years’ experience in handling this hazardous material, safety is our top priority, and we will keep you fully informed of our plans and methods throughout the removal process. Don’t let anyone on your property be endangered by asbestos.
Contact ACM for expert asbestos removal for projects in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and southern Maine.