Mesothelioma - Asbestos in the Home
Before 1980, asbestos was a common construction material in thousands of homes and may still be present in many homes today. The mineral can even be found in small amounts in new materials.
- Asbestos is prevalent in homes built before 1980.
- Asbestos can be found in home construction products, like insulation and roofing.
- During home renovation projects, asbestos can become dangerous when disturbed.
- Homeowners should hire an abatement team to remove asbestos materials.
Asbestos is a hazardous mineral that can be found in thousands of products and home building materials. Tasks, such as renovations and construction projects in the home, can lead to damaged asbestos, leaving individuals susceptible to dangerous exposure. Since the mineral is not yet banned, and newer products may contain low levels of asbestos, many household products and construction materials can still pose a threat. In order to help prevent asbestos exposure in the home, individuals are encouraged to hire abatement professionals to identify and remove any asbestos materials safely.
Favored for its durability, fireproof capabilities and low cost, asbestos-containing products were used heavily in homes from 1900 through the late 1970s. At the height of asbestos use in 1973, there were over 3,000 asbestos products on the market, most of which were building materials for workplaces and homes. Due to the widespread use of asbestos, the mineral can still be found in millions of homes across the United States.
Asbestos materials may be found almost anywhere in the home. High-heat areas in older homes, such as boiler ducts, are likely to have asbestos-containing materials to protect the home from extreme heat. Asbestos was also used in insulation materials like pipe and attic insulation, siding and even paint products. Asbestos is not yet banned and certain new building materials and products, including insulation and roofing, may still contain low levels of the mineral.
The mineral can also be found in many everyday household items, such as talcum powder and crock pots. It can be difficult to identify what asbestos looks like in products, as its fibers are microscopic, but individuals may be able to identify what products contain asbestos based on the year in which they were manufactured or when a home was built. Individuals can also identify a potential threat if they notice structures such as attic insulation or pipes in the home are disintegrated. Any aging or crumbling products should be treated with caution, in case they were made with asbestos or other toxins. Overall, it’s usually safe to assume that any house built before 1980 contains asbestos in some parts of the home.
Asbestos can be deemed generally safe when it is left undisturbed. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that asbestos is left alone if it is in good condition in order to avoid creating a health hazard. Homeowners should always defer to a professional when identifying, handling or removing asbestos to avoid creating unnecessary exposure. The presence of asbestos in a home can become dangerous and cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer or other asbestos cancers when it is damaged over time and asbestos fibers are released into the air.Asbestos Exposure in Homes
Since asbestos does not pose a threat when it is in good condition, materials like asbestos insulation typically become hazardous once they are disturbed, damaged or face wear and tear over time. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) notes that no level of exposure to asbestos is safe, and asbestos-related diseases can develop as a result of any amount of exposure. Due to mesothelioma’s long latency period, individuals may not know they were exposed to asbestos or have mesothelioma until the later stages of the disease, which can lead to delayed diagnosis and more limited treatment options.
Individuals are most often exposed to asbestos in the home when completing do-it-yourself projects. DIY projects often entail small renovations, interfering with floors, ceilings, walls and insulation throughout the home. One of the most popular DIY projects is removing popcorn ceilings, which contain asbestos. The spray-on asbestos material was heavily used from 1945 to 1980 and can easily become disturbed when attempting to remove it.
Individuals who complete projects such as removing popcorn ceilings, performing wall demolitions, repairs in attics or renovations on other home structures may be creating a risk for themselves or others in the home when disturbing asbestos materials. Recent studies have found an increase in malignant mesothelioma diagnoses as a result of home renovations. Researchers feel that this will continue to increase as older homes require renovation and repair as more time passes since their construction.
One of the most common hazardous sources of asbestos in the home is exposure to vermiculite insulation. Asbestos insulation was often favored for its lightweight properties and ability to expand, making it ideal to insulate attics and other areas of homes.Handling Asbestos in the Home
Asbestos can be extremely hazardous without proper experience and equipment to handle the toxin, so homeowners should always hire someone to safely handle asbestos materials when necessary. A qualified asbestos inspector can best determine if asbestos is present in a home and if it poses any immediate health hazards, as the mere presence of asbestos is not necessarily a danger.
The asbestos inspector will typically collect samples of the material in question for analysis, as well as provide a visual inspection. The inspector will also provide documentation of any asbestos present, including the location and its extent. Homeowners should keep records of asbestos in their home should any further issues related to exposure arise in the future.
If the asbestos is deemed safe, homeowners are encouraged to monitor the area for any future damage. Prior to performing renovations or remodeling a home, it is important to ensure the areas containing asbestos would not be damaged in the process or that the asbestos is professionally removed first. If the inspector believes the asbestos needs to be sealed off or removed, they may recommend an asbestos abatement team to safely handle the process.
Homeowners insurance policies vary, but asbestos generally isn’t covered. Many policies contain a pollutant or contaminant exclusion. Asbestos has been deemed a toxic material or pollutant by laws and insurance companies. Asbestos is likely included under the contaminant exclusion in these policies, even if it isn’t specifically named, which means that the removal of asbestos materials may not be covered. Buyers and homeowners should discuss with their agent to better understand their policy coverage and determine if asbestos abatement is included.Examples of Policy Exclusions Regarding Asbestos
- Pollutant Exclusion: Common in homeowners insurance policies, this exclusion typically includes asbestos and means removal of asbestos materials will not be covered.
- Contaminant Exclusion: Contaminant exclusions are also common in homeowner policies. Since asbestos is often considered a contaminant in homes, removal of the mineral may not be covered. These exclusions are often worded ambiguously and may require clarification.
- Asbestos Exclusion: Although it is a less common exclusion in homeowners insurance policies, it is an explicit exclusion that states asbestos removal will not be covered by the insurance company.
The purpose of these exclusions is to protect the insurance company from the cost of an environmental cleanup in the event that a hazardous material is released into the air. All policies should be read, reviewed and discussed carefully, especially for those considering buying a home that is likely to contain asbestos materials.What to Consider When Buying a Home
When it comes to buying a home built before 1980, buyers should note that many are likely to contain asbestos in certain areas. Seller disclosure laws differ by state and are meant to inform the buyer about the property as much as possible, while also providing the seller with the opportunity to reveal any potential issues with the home.
ederal law does not require sellers to disclose the presence of asbestos or vermiculite in the home. Many states, however, do require sellers to disclose any information on potential environmental hazards in the home, such as asbestos. But even in an older home, the seller may not be personally aware of any asbestos-containing materials used and wouldn’t be held liable for not disclosing the information.
In addition to reviewing any information on the disclosure, the buyer should always have a full home inspection completed before moving forward with the purchase. There are no federal requirements for what is included in a home inspection, which means it can vary greatly between states.