Asbestos insulation is a very common problem that many people have to deal with at some point. Several years ago, asbestos was commonly used in everything from shingles to floor tiles and asbestos insulation was used in many homes that were built in the 1950s and 1960s. With many homes from that era still standing, it is no surprise to run into asbestos in some capacity. While it was common in that time period, it does not mean that you will necessarily have asbestos insulation just because you have an older house.
Properly identifying asbestos insulation can help you avoid some serious health problems in the future. Asbestos has been directly linked to causing mesothelioma and lung cancer as a result of breathing it in. The small fibers that come off of asbestos can kill you. Therefore, if you have asbestos insulation, you need to properly identify it and have it safely removed from your house.
Step 1 - Determine the Age of Your House
The first thing that you need to do is determine exactly when your home was constructed. Some houses look very old, but they have just been maintained poorly. You need to find out if your house was built before 1989 or not, as this was the year that asbestos was officially banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. If it was built before then, there is a chance that there could be asbestos in your walls.
Step 2 - Prepare for an Encounter with Asbestos
If you are at risk of coming into direct contact with asbestos, you need to make sure that you are protected. The last thing that you want to do is be breathing around asbestos insulation. Asbestos, if disturbed, can release microscopic fibers that get down into your lungs. Asbestos will not kill you immediately, but it is similar to smoking cigarettes. It will take a long period of time to make a difference.
When you are ready to look at the insulation, make sure that you wear protective clothing. You need safety goggles, a protective mask, a respirator, gloves, and a protective suit. While you could get by without these precautions, you should not take any unnecessary risks if you're unsure of what you're dealing with.
Step 3 - Take a Sample
Asbestos insulation usually looks like a loose gray material, and it is also commonly wrapped around the outside of pipes. Take a small sample of the insulation and place it into a sealed container.
Step 4 - Have it Analyzed
There are a number of labs out there that can analyze asbestos for you. They have to be certified by the EPA and they have to use a method called polarizing light microscopy to tell for sure.
In the event that your suspicions are confirmed, you need to immediately arrange to have a professional team go through and remove all possible asbestos from your home. Until the insulation is removed, it will not be safe to live in your home.