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Asbestos in the Home

Asbestos possesses extraordinary strength and remarkable heat resistance properties. Because the magic of asbestos was so magnetic many years ago, manufacturers of construction materials made it the mineral of choice in everything from caulking and flooring to roof shingles and window glazing. In fact, according to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), asbestos was used in more than 3,000 building products in the U.S. before 1981. Although the use of asbestos-containing products is strictly regulated today, use of the mineral was so widespread that millions of homes across the U.S. contain asbestos more than 30 years later.


While some asbestos containing materials (ACMs) may remain intact for decades, others may degrade over time or become disturbed by repairs or renovation. In these cases, asbestos fibers may be released into the air where they may be breathed in and become trapped in the lungs or other areas of the body. According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NCI NIH), asbestos fibers can accumulate in the body over time and lead to serious health problems such as asbestosis, lung cancer, pleural plaques, pleural effusions, and mesothelioma. While some of these conditions may be cured, there is no cure for mesothelioma.

To protect your family from asbestos exposure, one of the first steps is to identify the most common types of ACMs used in residential construction and where they are likely to be found in the home.

Asbestos may be found in the following common residential construction materials and areas of the home:

  • Roof shingles/underlayment typically covers the entire area of the roof of the home. Asbestos fibers were added to roof shingles/underlayment to strengthen and increase durability. It was also added to provide insulation and fireproof the home.
  • Roof tar/flashing may also be found throughout the entire area of the roof. Flashing can be found throughout the roof area as well as other areas on the exterior of the home. Roof tar/flashing protects the home from water, cold weather, sunlight, and UV rays. Asbestos was often added to roof tar/flashing to help insulate and resist heat and water.
  • Caulking can be found in multiple areas of the interior and exterior of the home including around windows and doors, brickwork, boilers, fireplaces, ovens, and boilers. It can also be found in bathrooms, such as around tubs or sinks, in the application of drywall and paneling, and in trim work around ceilings and walls. Asbestos was used in around 25 percent of caulking materials before the 1980s and it is believed that some of these materials may be close to 100 percent asbestos. Caulking is used to help weatherproof, waterproof, and heatproof the home.
  • Siding/underlayment is applied to the exterior walls of the home to protect it from the elements, to shed water, and to enhance the appearance of the home. Like roofing materials, asbestos fibers were added to siding/underlayment to help strengthen and increase durability, and insulate and fireproof the home.
  • Window glazing may be found in any window of the home. It helps protect the home from the elements and it holds the glass in place. Asbestos was used as an ingredient in window glazing to increase strength and durability, to insulate, and to help resist heat and water.
  • Pipe wrap or “pipe covering” is typically found in the basement of the home. Banned in the U.S. since 1975, asbestos pipe wrap was used to help keep pipes and plumbing systems in proper working condition by insulating them against freezing or intense heat.
  • Heating units are also found in the basement of the home. Asbestos containing insulating material was often used on and within the heating system to help insulate, strengthen, and connect certain components. Cement asbestos was also used on heating systems.
  • Linoleum flooring is one of the most popular construction materials and it can be found in just about any area of the home. Because asbestos is so resilient, it was the perfect additive for linoleum flooring—especially for heavily trafficked areas of the home. Asbestos was often added to adhesives, glues, and other associated materials as well.
  • Ceramic floor tile/grout is likely to be found in kitchen and bathrooms. However, depending on the design, these potential asbestos-containing materials may be found in other areas of the home such as the foyers and other entryways, hallways, family rooms, and sunrooms. Like linoleum flooring, asbestos was used in ceramic flooring and grout to strengthen and increase durability.
  • Floor tiles/glue can be found anywhere in the home. Asbestos was often added to floor tiles/glue to help strengthen and add durability, and enhance resistance to heat and cold.
  • Sheetrock/plaster is the most commonly used building material in the U.S. This interior walling can be found in every area of the home. Asbestos was incorporated into sheetrock/plaster to strengthen, increase fire resistance, and absorb sound.

If you suspect that any area of your home contains asbestos, the next step is to contact an asbestos testing firm. The licensed, certified, and fully insured professionals at RTK Environmental can help you confirm the presence of asbestos in your home and monitor the removal project from start to finish. Contact RTK Environmental for a free phone consultation today at 800.392.6468.

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