It was once considered a modern construction miracle with great potential. However, over the last several decades, asbestos has proven to cause more harm than good…
Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber that was originally mined because of its resistance to heat, fire, and electricity. But, in the late 1970s, researchers began to find links between asbestos and a number of health-related risks. Because asbestos has a latency period of 10-50 years, cancers (including mesothelioma) and other illnesses (such as asbestosis) are harder to diagnose.
The discovery of asbestos-linked illnesses eventually led to the historic EPA ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1989. Unfortunately, in 1991 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the act to ban only new uses of asbestos, while keeping historic uses intact within a regulated one percent (or less) in the product.
Because asbestos was commonly used in household products and construction between the 1940s and 1970s, some standing homes still contain the harmful substance. If left undisturbed, asbestos poses little risk. Because it’s hard to know what does (and doesn’t) contain asbestos, however, it’s best to seek professional help before starting any home improvement projects that could disrupt the latent asbestos.
Products that may contain asbestos include:
- Vehicle parts: such as brake pads, clutches, and some gaskets (also found in airplanes, helicopters, and ships)
- New types of insulation
- Construction materials: including roofing tiles, prefabricated cement, and corrugated sheeting
- Some potting soils: especially those containing vermiculite
- Vinyl flooring: especially those installed prior to 1980
- Crock pots: especially those manufactured prior to 1980
- Ironing board covers: those commonly sold around the 1960s
- Hair dryers: those produced prior to 1979
Many people believe asbestos is banned entirely, but that is not the case. Be careful of any products that require protection from high friction, heat, or fire. Check out the EPA’s guide on asbestos in the home. And make sure to have your home and office checked for asbestos to guarantee that you are safe from exposure.