In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule prohibiting the manufacture, importation, processing, and distribution in commerce of most asbestos-containing products. However, this rule was soon contested by domestic and foreign industries and the court ultimately invalidated the rule “based on findings that the EPA did not present sufficient evidence to justify the comprehensive ban.”
Due to heavy regulations on its manufacture and usage, asbestos is not used in building products as heavily as it once was. However, it is still used in U.S. industry and is a contaminant in many consumer products. Further, as an inexpensive and highly effective fire-retardant material, it was used extensively in home construction from the 1940s through the 1970s and can be found in millions of homes across the United States.
For example, in homes built prior to 1975 asbestos was primarily used as thermal insulation for basement boilers and pipes. It can also be found in many other household materials such as:
- Blown-in attic insulation
- Fiber cement siding
- Floor tile adhesive
- HVAC duct insulation
- Roofing material
- Siding material
- Some forms of linoleum
- Some forms of paint
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Window caulking and glazing
Unfortunately, even though its use has dropped consistently over the years, chrysotile asbestos is still entering the U.S. today from China and Brazil. The chlorine industry is the largest consumer, but other industries also use chrysotile in their products and tools, including the food, steel, soap, aluminum, cleaning products, and water treatment industries. Because imports were on the rise for the first few months of 2022, the EPA is once again proposing a ban.
The bottom line is that potential asbestos exposure continues to be a real possibility for workers, students, tenants, and homeowners. The health risks associated with asbestos exposure have been well documented for years, including:
- Mesothelioma – a rare and incurable cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and/or abdomen
- Cancers of the lung, ovaries, or larynx – asbestos-related lung cancer accounts for 4 percent of all lung cancers
- Asbestosis – inflammation and scarring of lung tissue, preventing the lungs from expanding and relaxing normally
- Pleural plaques – thickening of the lining around the lungs and the most common sign of asbestos exposure
- Pleural effusion – a buildup of fluid around the lungs resulting in difficulty breathing
- Diffuse pleural thickening – extensive scarring that thickens the lining of the lungs causing chest pain and difficulty breathing
- Pleurisy – severe inflammation of the pleural lining of the lung
- Atelectasis – inflammation and scarring that causes the pleural lining to fold in on itself, preventing full inflation
It can take between 10 and 70 years for these diseases to show up. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pain, and a wide range of cancer symptoms. Many of these diseases are fatal and smokers have an increased risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
Remember, no amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe. However, the mere presence of asbestos-containing material in the home is not hazardous. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested. The danger arises when the material is disturbed or damaged, whether through natural deterioration over time or by being disturbed by renovations. Asbestos materials that crumble when handled, or have been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder are likely to release fibers and create a health hazard.
Your peace of mind is priceless. If you are concerned about possible asbestos-containing material in your home, contact Paragon to conduct asbestos testing and, if necessary, abatement.