Munford Fire Department Asbestos Awareness

The Dangers of Asbestos

Asbestos in Older Homes
Throughout the United States, asbestos is a concern, primarily for governments and the people who own public buildings. Concerns about asbestos are on the rise with the owners of older homes as well. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered and here, we’ll tackle the most common questions older home owners have about asbestos.

Does my home contain asbestos?
Chances are that if your home was built after 1980, you have no asbestos products. However, if your home was built prior to 1980 and starting around the time of the Second world War, or if you had any major renovations done to your home throughout that time period, chances are that your home does contain products that were made with asbestos.

 Chrysotile asbestos  Tremolite asbestos
Chrysotile asbestos  Tremolite asbestos 

Is it dangerous to have asbestos in my home?
Asbestos is a known carcinogen and while there’s been a big concern over asbestos, it’s only dangerous when it’s the tiny airborne fibers are released into the air. Asbestos fibers were mixed into a variety of products that were used in older homes, such as wood pulp, cement, and paint. Asbestos is best known for being fire proof and at the time (between World War II and the 1980s) asbestos was thought to be a miracle solution for many things, including helping to fireproof homes, buildings and schools. These products are only dangerous as long as the materials are in good shape and that they aren’t damaged or disturbed in any way. As long as this is the case, there is only a small health risk living with asbestos materials.

Why are asbestos fibers dangerous?
Asbestos fibers are very small and thin, yet nearly indestructible. Their slender formation makes them quite easy to inhale and become lodged in the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen. Their durability means that the human body is powerless to get rid of these tiny fibers once they are lodged in your system. This causes a variety of diseases, such as asbestosis, which is a scarring of the lungs and can lead to mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a deadly, rare cancer that is only brought on with asbestos exposure.

asbestos fibers viewed using Scanning Electron Microscopy  These are asbestos fibers viewed using
Scanning Electron Microscopy. Their
needle-like shape is partially
responsible for the health problems
caused by the fibers 

When is asbestos dangerous in my home?
Asbestos is only dangerous to your family when the fibers are disturbed and release fibers into the air that can be inhaled.

How do I know if there is asbestos in my home?
The only real way to tell if there is asbestos in your home is to have a professional come in and look. It can be impossible to tell if there is asbestos in your home by visual checking only, unless you know all about the materials and brands and how they look, which takes experience and knowledge, which asbestos appraising professionals have. Even though these professionals have the knowledge of the products and brands of asbestos containing products, they still rely on microscopic examinations of the materials in your home to determine if there is asbestos present or not. If you think there is asbestos in your home, you can set your mind at ease by having a professional asbestos appraiser or surveyor come into your home, or you can do nothing, assume it is asbestos and take the necessary precautions not to disturb the material.

Where would asbestos be found in my older home?
Asbestos was used in literally thousands of products that were used while building homes and multiple products for the consumer. The most common places that asbestos can be found in an older home are:
  • Siding shingles that were made with asbestos cement
  • Insulation (homes built between 1930 and 1950)
  • Textured paints that were commonly used for ceilings and walls (this paint was banned in 1977).
  • Pipe insulation
  • Pipe caulking
  • Furnace blankets
  • Water heater blankets
  • Floors and walls behind stoves, fire places, and heaters. It was common to protect these highfire- 
          likelihood areas with asbestos millboard, asbestos paper or asbestos cement sheets.
  • Door gaskets in coal and oil furnaces
  • Join compounds used to seal wallboard
  • Floor tiles or vinyl flooring, may be made with asbestos or have an asbestos backing.

 Asbestos fibers like these were commonly used in insulation Many textured ceiling treatments appear similar th this 
Asbestos fibers like these were commonly used in insulation  Many textured ceiling treatments appear similar to this. 

What types of consumer products would contain asbestos?
If you have some older products in your home still, they may contain asbestos. Some of the most common consumer products that may have asbestos in them include:

  • Ironing board covers
  • Iron rests
  • Stove top pads
  • Hot pads
  • Pot holders
  • Powdered joint compound
  • Patching plaster
  • Car repair kits
  • Brake repair kits
Fabrics containing asbestos were once used in heat shielding protective clothing  stove top pads  and other protective items  Fabrics containing asbestos were once used
in heat-shielding protective clothing, stove
top pads, and other protective items.

Ok, there’s asbestos in my home, should I have it removed?
Actually, removing asbestos from your home is the last thing you should do right off the bat. Removing it will likely cause asbestos fibers to become airborne during the demolition and removal. If the asbestos containing products are in good condition, removing them would be more dangerous than just leaving them in place. You should continue to watch the materials for wear and tear, as well as damage that could indicate that asbestos fibers are being released into your air.

What do I do if the materials are showing damage or wear?
Call a professional to have the asbestos managed with either encapsulation or enclosure, and in some cases, removed entirely.

When should asbestos be removed?
Asbestos products should be removed when there is severe damage and the area can not be encapsulated or enclosed. As well, if you are demolishing the area that contains asbestos or will do renovations that will disturb the area; the asbestos will have to be removed.

How do I remove asbestos from my home?
Only a licensed and trained professional should remove asbestos from your home. They know how to do it safely while staying within the regulations for asbestos removal.
For more information on asbestos exposure, risks, and pleural mesothelioma, please visit the Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center at

asbestos  View a large version of this diagram of Asbestos in the Home.