Are Asbestos Hazards Lurking in Places We Believe Are Safe?

Are Asbestos Hazards Lurking in Places We Believe Are Safe?

Places that most Americans think of as safe may hold a hidden danger of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a deadly mineral fiber that can only be positively identified with a particular type of microscope. Asbestos was added to various products to provide strength, heat insulation, and fire resistance. However, asbestos has been determined to cause asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

How Can You Identify Asbestos?

By looking at it, you can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos. Asbestos-containing material is not generally considered harmful unless it releases dust or fibers into the air, where they can be inhaled or ingested. Asbestos-containing material in good condition or undisturbed should not pose a problem. However, when homes or buildings are remodeled or new systems are added to old buildings, it could disturb older asbestos-containing materials and cause problems.

Where You Might Not Expect to Find Asbestos

Asbestos was a frequently used building and insulation material, so any home or building built before 1980 likely contains asbestos materials.

Asbestos locations in buildings include:

  • Insulation around boilers and pipes
  • HVAC ductwork
  • Ceiling plaster and tiles
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Roofing materials

Schools

The use of asbestos in school buildings became such a public hazard concern that the U.S. government passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986. AHERA requires U.S. schools to inspect buildings for asbestos-containing materials. Additionally, schools should make asbestos management plans and take action to prevent and reduce asbestos exposure risks.

Hospitals

Hospitals were built with asbestos products to keep medical equipment from overheating and for fire prevention. Hospital builders used asbestos as insulation around electrical wiring, piping and boilers, HVAC ductwork, and floor tiles. Equipment installers used asbestos to insulate cooling towers.

Churches

People who work at a church, especially older churches, may encounter asbestos-containing products. Church builders used asbestos to soundproof acoustical panels in walls and ceilings, and organ blowers and bellow dampen the reverberation of the music inside the church.  

Public Buildings

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, roughly 20percent of all public and commercial buildings in the U.S. contain asbestos material. Federal regulations require building owners to conduct regular inspections of asbestos materials and safely abate or remove hazardous issues. Asbestos has been found in government buildings, police stations, and courthouses.

How Can I Stay Safe From Asbestos Exposure?

If you live in an older home or are responsible for maintaining an older building, check hot water pipes and furnace air ducts regularly. See if asbestos-containing insulation material is breaking or coming apart. If it is breaking or coming apart, don’t disturb it. Disturbing it may create more airborne asbestos dust. Keep people and animals out of the affected areas. Consult with an asbestos removal expert to seal or remove the material and contact Goldberg Persky and White P.C. today

Sources:
“Asbestos and School Buildings” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [Link]
Healthcare Environmental Resource Center. (2015) [Link]
Sun Sentinal News. (1988) [Link]
Ritchie Peter, “Asbestos issues in churches: What to spot” (April 19, 2016)  [Link]
“Asbestos in Buildings,” Safety & Health Dept., International Brotherhood of Teamsters [Link]
Posey, Melanie, “Birmingham’s North Precinct remains closed following chemical concerns,” 6WBRC (May 25, 2017) [Link]
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