Asbestos has been recognized since ancient Greek and Roman times as a beneficial material that can withstand fire and heat, as well as electricity and chemicals. Thus, it is no surprise that this silicate mineral has been used in everything from submarines to homes as an insulating material. Sadly, though, we now know that asbestos can cause dangerous and even deadly disorders such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Although asbestos came under strict governmental regulation beginning in the 1980s, many homes built before and during this decade still contain asbestos. At one point in time, asbestos could be found in everything from ceiling tiles to counter tops, vinyl flooring to wall insulation. If your home was built prior to the 1980s, these components of your house may be releasing dangerous asbestos particles into the air.
Asbestos is divided into two different categories once it is used as an additive: friable and non-friable. Friable means that it can release microscopic fibers into the air, and non-friable means that the fibers are firmly secured in the material. Asbestos is dangerous when it comes in the friable form.
If you suspect that friable asbestos is in your home, there are several steps that you can take to protect yourself. First, it is impossible to determine if a substance is asbestos just by looking at it. You can send in samples of items to specialized labs for asbestos testing. However, you must be extremely careful when getting a sample.
If you want to cut a material to send it in for asbestos sampling, disturbing the fibers can send them airborne, where you can ingest or inhale these carcinogenic particles. Thus, if you absolutely must send it in for testing, you should make sure that you are wearing goggles and a face mask to protect yourself form inhaling asbestos. You can water it down very gently to help the particles stick together. Next, you can cut a tiny sample, never touching the material with your bare skin.
Should the sample test positive for asbestos, you can either have it removed by a professional or have it sealed with paint or another coating to keep it from being friable.