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Asbestos – What You Need To Know

The presence of asbestos in any home or premises can become a serious matter that requires professional attention. Our goal is to assist you in understanding and correcting any asbestos issue – from start to finish. No job is too big or too small when the health of your family or employees is at stake.

RTK expertly locates any asbestos in your home or workplace. Once the material is completely removed, we’ll verify that your home or workplace is no longer contaminated.

RTK’s asbestos inspectors, project designers, and management planners are licensed by the Department of Public Health in New York and Connecticut and are certified under the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act.

Note: We do not offer asbestos abatement. Our sole focus is on providing an accurate, unbiased assessment of the presence of asbestos on your premises, and any potential health risks.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a heat-resistant fibrous mineral that has been used in the manufacturing of thousands of building materials including home insulation, pipe insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, adhesives, roof shingles, siding, textured ceilings and joint compounds. Over time, these materials can degrade or be disturbed during renovation work, and the asbestos fibers are released into the air. When inhaled, asbestos causes dangerous illnesses, particularly lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments.

Therefore, it is important that asbestos be monitored by certified professionals who can help homeowners and commercial property owners identify potential risks. This is especially important prior to doing renovation work or purchasing property.

What does asbestos look like?

what does asbestos look likeMostly commonly, asbestos looks like white fuzz, but it can also appear in different shapes and colors such as brown, gray, or dull green. Chrysotile, the most common type of asbestos, is long, white, and curly. Another common type, amphibole, is brittle and has a rod or needle shape. Studies have shown that amphibole fibers are more likely than chrysotile asbestos to increase the risk of mesothelioma, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos is found in many locations, both inside and outside the home or commercial property. These include:
  • Backing of vinyl sheet floor covering
  • Carpet padding
  • Popcorn ceiling tiles
  • Pipe insulation
  • Attic and ceiling insulation
  • Electric and wall insulation
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Acoustic ceiling tiles
  • Drop ceiling tiles
  • Fireplace flues
  • Drywall
  • Adhesives
  • Roof shingles
  • Sealants
  • Cement

Are tiles made of asbestos dangerous?

asbestos tileUnlike many asbestos-containing materials, vinyl asbestos flooring is generally safe to be around – provided it is not damaged or chipped in any way. But once the decision is made to remove the tile or disturb it in any way, it becomes a hazard. Any time you disturb asbestos tile, it can release toxic fibers into the air. There are many contractors and laborers suffering from diseases today such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma because of a lack of awareness of the dangers of asbestos in the past.


I’m house hunting and looking at older homes. Should I be concerned about asbestos?

All homes can contain asbestos – even newer ones. It is especially important to test older homes, however, as asbestos was more commonly used in the past. RTK’s certified professionals can help homeowners and commercial property owners identify potential risks prior to renovation, demolition, or purchase, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in asbestos abatement and costly cleanup after the fact.


Who is at risk for asbestos exposure?

asbestos lung diseaseAlmost everyone has been exposed to asbestos at one time because asbestos has been used in products for many years. But not everyone who has been exposed will become ill. People with higher levels of exposure are more vulnerable to illness: those who have worked with asbestos materials or spent a long time surrounded by them. This includes those with jobs in mining, construction, sheet metal manufacture, and automotive repair (mechanics that deal with brake and clutch repairs); as well as insulation workers, those who manufacture products containing asbestos, and who do renovation work at marinas and boat yards. You also need to be careful if you live near an asbestos waste disposal site, as the materials may not be properly contained or stored.


What are the symptoms of asbestos exposure?

Symptoms of asbestos exposure are very difficult to detect because most asbestos-related diseases don’t arise until years after exposure. But once you have an asbestos-related illness, symptoms will include shortness of breath; swollen fingertips and toes that appear rounder and wider than normal; a persistent, dry cough; wheezing; loss of appetite with weight loss; and chest tightness or pain.


Can you get rid of asbestos in your lungs?

Unfortunately, you cannot. No known method exists to remove asbestos fibers from the lungs once they are inhaled, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The Agency does say, however, that some types of asbestos are cleared naturally by the lungs or break down in the lungs.


How prevalent is asbestos-related death in the United States?

According to the Environmental Working Group, currently 12,000 to 15,000 people die every year in the USA from asbestos-related diseases. This number continues to rise. The total number of asbestos-related deaths in the United States may exceed 200,000 by the year 2030, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.


Is asbestos always dangerous?

Left undisturbed, asbestos is generally safe. If it is exposed or damaged, it can be very harmful.


When should I test for asbestos?

asbestos inspectionIf you suspect that your home or workplace contains asbestos, call in trained professionals to examine the materials. They will do so without the risk of releasing fibers into the air. Test for asbestos in these situations:

  • If you are buying, selling or renting a condominium, co-op or home built before 1980
  • Before you or your contractor do any renovation work on property built before 1980
  • Before you or your contractor do any demolition work on property built before 1980


Can I remove asbestos myself?

Legally, yes. But that’s playing with fire. The EPA advises against any sort of DIY asbestos project, whether it’s obtaining a sample or removal. Once asbestos fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled, and then lodge in your lungs. The EPA recommends calling in professionals who are trained, licensed, and certified in asbestos handling and removal, and observe proper safety procedures. The EPA states this is the best way to protect yourself and your family.


How do I know if I have asbestos in my house?

asbestos sampleYou can’t tell if a product or building material contains asbestos by just looking at it. You will need to have a certified testing company take a sample to be analyzed. As asbestos is commonly found in building materials, insulation, and cement products, if you are working or moving products or materials in these categories, then it is best to have a professional do asbestos testing first.


What should I do if I find asbestos in my house?

How you deal with it will depend on the type of asbestos found and the condition it is in. If the asbestos material is in good condition, free from cracks or dust, and there is no danger of the fibers becoming airborne, then it is generally safe to leave it alone. If the material is damaged or deteriorating, or if you are going to disturb the material, it will need to be removed by a professional asbestos abatement contractor.


Asbestos abatement – when should asbestos be removed?

asbestos removalIf you are planning to renovate areas that contain asbestos, you need to have the asbestos removed prior to any demolition, sanding, cutting, or any other disturbance to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the air.


Is asbestos illegal or banned in the USA?

Shockingly, no. Asbestos is still not completely banned in the USA. In 1973, the EPA’s Clean Air Act banned most spray-applied asbestos products for insulating and fireproofing purposes. In 1989, the EPA implemented the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, which was supposed to ban asbestos completely. Unfortunately in 1991, the ban was overturned after intensive lobbying by the asbestos industry. Products today can be made with asbestos as long as asbestos accounts for less than one percent of the product’s makeup. Products that currently include asbestos are: automobile clutches, brake pads, vinyl tile, roofing materials, cement piping, home insulation, corrugated sheeting, and even some potting soils.


Do you need to be licensed to handle asbestos?

In most states, asbestos licensure is mandatory. Both the companies and individuals doing the abatement need to be licensed by the state, and sometimes, local authorities. You need separate licenses to test for asbestos and to remove asbestos and usually cannot do both on the same project.

As water systems age, 63% of Americans are now concerned a “great deal” about drinking water pollution, according to a Gallup poll.

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