Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment. Asbestos minerals are made up of long fibers that are strong, flexible and heat resistant. Because of these properties, asbestos has been used in a wide range of products including building materials (roofing shingles, siding, ceiling and floor tiles, some cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistant fabrics and furnace duct wrap.
Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers for a long time may result in scar-like tissue in the lungs. This disease is called asbestosis and is usually found in workers exposed to asbestos, but not in the general public. It is also known that breathing asbestos can increase the risk of cancer in people. Cancer from asbestos does not develop immediately, but shows up after a number of years.
The risk from asbestos containing products is in part determined by how easily it releases fibers. If the fibers are easily released, such as with furnace duct insulation, the product is called "friable" and poses a higher risk. If the product does not easily release fibers such as roofing shingles or vinyl flooring, it is considered "non-friable" and generally considered a lower risk.
The presence of asbestos in your home does not automatically mean it needs to be removed. If the material is in good condition and not releasing fibers it poses little risk unless it's disturbed. If your planning a home remodel project, it's generally recommended that you cover over asbestos containing products rather than remove them if possible.
If you are uncertain whether a product in your home contains asbestos, you can call a local laboratory (go to yellow pages and look for – Laboratories-Analytical) for information on how to collect and send them a sample to be analyzed for asbestos.
Regardless of the type of asbestos product you may have in your home, it is recommended that you take precaution when handling these products. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is responsible for regulating the removal of asbestos containing materials and has created many good publications regarding asbestos for community members.
For more information please call 253 798-3512 or email us.
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