Dangers of Asbestos in Older Homes, Public Buildings and Schools

dangers of asbestos

In this article, we explore the dangers of asbestos in older homes, school buildings & public places.

Presence of Asbestos in public buildings, public schools and older homes is becoming an increasing concern for the US government and school administrators, as well as landlords.

This is because if asbestos fibers are disturbed into the air, people passing by these buildings could inhale them and be susceptible to mesothelioma lung cancer, asbestosis and other related diseases.

The image on the left is of asbestos fibers that were commonly used in insulation products such as heat shrinkers, expandable sleevings, dual wall polyolefins and hot stamp markers.

Asbestos in Older Homes

If a home was built after 1980, it is safe to assume the home has no asbestos in it. However, older homes that were built prior to 1980, especially those built after World War II have great risk of containing asbestos products.

Asbestos alone is not harmful; however it can become dangerous if tiny asbestos fibers become airborne (disturbed into the air).

Asbestos fibers were mixed with a wide variety of construction products used in older homes. Examples include cement, wood pulp and paint.

One of the best traits of Asbestos is its ability for being fire proof. Between World War II and the 1980s, fireproofing was very important including fireproofing buildings, homes, public schools and government offices.

If the cement, wood pulp and paint in older homes are not damaged and remain in good shape, there is relatively low risk of asbestos exposure.

However, for instance if the paint is peeling off or the cement is damaged, then there is more risk of asbestos fibers becoming airborne.

The image on the left is of an old Asbestos home damaged after Hurricane Katrina. If you notice, the walls & the paint of the house that contain asbestos products have been damaged, which can easily make asbestos fibers airborne.

If these tiny airbone asbestos fibers are breathed into the lungs by oncomers, they could be at risk of developing asbestos related cancers such as mesothelioma & asbestosis.

The reason this home was built with asbestos containing products such as asbestos tiles, asbestos sidings, shingles and insulation is because these products were thought to be safe and strong for a good foundation of the house.

Why Are Asbestos Fibers so Dangerous?

Because asbestos fibers are very thin and small, they can easily be inhaled into the lungs and get clogged up in the lung linings, heart or abdomen.

This can lead to various diseases such as pleural, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma. Also, asbestos fibers are known to be very durable, making it impossible for the human body to get rid of them.

The image on the left shows an example of asbestos fibers, which are needle-like shaped and also known as amphibole asbestos fibers. Below is a full list of products in older homes that could potentially contain asbestos.

  • Vinyl flooring or floor tiles
  • Door gaskets (in coal and oil furnaces)
  • Joint compounds used to seal wallboards
  • Water heater blankets
  • Pipe insulation
  • Textured paints in ceilings and walls
  • Siding shingles made of asbestos cement- Rooftops
  • Walls behind stoves, heaters & fireplaces.

Consumer Products Containing Asbestos

If older homes contain older products, they could still be at risk of asbestos. Examples of such old products include:

  • Car repair kits
  • Brake repair kits
  • Powdered joint compounds
  • Patching plasters
  • Pot holders & hot pads
  • Iron rests
  • Ironing board covers

What if you suspect there is asbestos in your home and you would like to remove it? This process is called asbestos abatement and should only be carried out by professionals working in the industry.

This process is dangerous because when asbestos is demolished and remove, the tiny asbestos fibers could become airborne, posing a threat for everyone in the surrounding.

If the asbestos containing products are not damaged and in good shape, removing them would be more dangerous than leaving them intact in their place.

You should keep an eye out for wear and tear or any damages on these products. The picture on the left is of floor tiles consisting of asbestos compounds.

Asbestos compounds used in floor tiles were relatively cheap and popular after World War II. Floor tiles were designed in different colors & variations consisting of asbestos compounds after WWII.

You should not remove the floor tiles by yourself to inspect for asbestos fibers, this must be done by a professional asbestos abatement firm.

dr. Khadijah

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