Home » Home & Family

Older Home? Time for an Asbestos Check

Submitted by Steven Kazan on December 27, 2011 – 11:26 am

While it was once revered for its utility, asbestos’ ability to cause fatal diseases — through fiber inhalation — has been known since the 1920s and to cause cancer since the 1930s.

Asbestos — a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers with the ability to be separated into thin threads — is resistant to fire, heat and chemicals and does not conduct electricity. As such, the fibers were often used in products such as Sheetrock joint compound, roofing, shingles and auto parts.

While the product has not been used in decades, it still poses a risk of ma­lignant mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, as many building products and insulation materials contained as­bestos up until the 1970s, according to the National Cancer Institute.

According to the EPA, here are some places asbestos may still be intact.

Insulation Materials: Asbestos was commonly used in products used to cover steam pipes, furnace ducts or boilers. Such insulation can also be found throughout the home in the form of cement sheet, paper and millboard around wood stoves or furnaces. Such insulation can often be found in the attic or walls of a house.

Ceilings and Walls: While the use of such compounds was banned in 1977, many older homes could still be con­taminated, and sanding or scraping such surfaces could disturb the mineral fibers.

Roofing and Shingles: Such prod­ucts were often manufactured using asbestos fiber in asphalts or cement, meaning the carcinogen could be released into the environment if the products are cut or drilled. Around the House: Keep an eye out for the materials in soundproofing or decorative products, such as acoustic ceiling tiles, oven door gaskets, resil­ient flooring — also known as vinyl or sheet vinyl — and stovetop pads.

Don’t Forget Your Car: The auto­motive industry used asbestos in the production of vehicles for a number of years. For this reason, millions of cars and trucks may still contain asbestos in their brake pads and linings, transmis­sions, gaskets and clutch facings.

Overall, proceed with caution. If you suspect your home or car may have some lingering asbestos, have it checked by a professional. Look for more information on what to do about asbestos in the home in our next issue.

— Steven Kazan is an attorney with Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley in Oakland, California.