Asbestos is common building material used in a variety of applications for hundreds of years. In recent years, asbestos has grabbed the headlines as it has been found to be extremely hazardous to humans. So what exactly is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. These minerals have the ability to be woven and have exceptional resistance to heat and most chemicals. Because of these properties, asbestos fibers have been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, insulation, paper and cement products, textiles, coatings, and friction products such as automobile clutch, brake and transmission parts.

Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos does not pose much of a risk to humans until it becomes airborne. Asbestos fibers are very small (invisible to the naked eye) and can easily be unknowingly inhaled into our lungs. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases including: asbestoses, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. Smoking in conjunction with exposure to asbestos will increase the risk of developing these illnesses. The difficulty in dealing with this phenomenon is that the process is gradual and symptoms may take years to appear following exposure to asbestos.

Common Uses
Asbestos has been commonly used as an acoustic insulator, thermal insulation, fire proofing and in other building materials. Asbestos fibers are incredibly strong and have properties that make them resistant to heat. A common source of asbestos in homes built before or around 1980 are “popcorn” ceilings. Many home owners put themselves at a very high risk of asbestos exposure while when removing these ceilings. In fact, simply using a paint roller to cover the ceilings can release significant amounts of asbestos materials into the air.

Reduce the Risk
If your home was built prior to 1980, have your ceiling tiles, stuccos, and “popcorn” tested for asbestos prior to doing any work on or around them. Even if you home was built after this time, you may have asbestos containing materials in the insulation surrounding your air ducts and water pipes. These should be tested as well if you plan on removing this material. If the tests come back positive for asbestos, your best solution is to:


  • Call an asbestos abatement professional to get an estimate on the cost and severity of the situation. It can be a very expensive proposition to have a professional remove all the asbestos from your home but you and your family will be safe during and after the removal. This is especially the case if there is a large quantity of asbestos in your home. It is not recommended to attempt and remove the asbestos yourself. This is a complicated process and requires specialized safety equipment and skills.
  • If full removal falls outside of your price range, consider encapsulating the asbestos containing material with a specialized sealant made for this task. This is the most cost effective solution but may not be a permanent fix as you may need to reapply in the future. This solution will work for insulation as well as ceilings. It is important to remember that, if possible, the sealants should be sprayed on and not brushed or rolled onto the surface. Remember that asbestos is only harmful if it becomes airborne and enters your lungs.