Asbestos can be described as a mineral that occurs naturally with compositions of tightly packed fibers to offer resistance to fire, heat, and other environmental conditions. They are strong, durable, and highly insulated against noise and cold weather. Hence, they are widely used in the building manufacturing of fireproof, insulation, and other related building materials such as ceiling and floor tiles, truck and car brake pads, vehicle clutches, plaster, cement, house siding, industrial heating systems, industrial furnace, and building insulations. These and much more have made asbestos becomes part of us in the home. It is ever-present materials in the home, as it is always incorporated in the construction of building due to the purposes it serves.
However, asbestos has been studied to pose a severe health risk to the occupants when its fiber compositions lose or remove and become airborne. These fibers release unhealthy gas into the air, and when it is breathed in, it has significant health effects on the performance of the lung by causing lung cancer and scarring of the tissue covering the lungs (mesothelioma). Hence, it is essential to test for signs of asbestos and prevent its exposure as much as possible in your home.
The ceiling has always been most common concern for asbestos for people, not knowing that there are many unsuspected sources of asbestos in the homes. It may not be possible to do without it in the home, but the required task is to ensure that its fibers are covered and prevented from losing or airborne.
The only mean to be sure that an object contains asbestos is to carry out material sample test, but testing should be carried out by a certified indoor air quality professional with special equipment. Then, if the material is tested positive, the next step is to repair or remove it for the safety of the occupants. This content aims to enlighten our readers on the health risk of asbestos exposure and how to take a material sample of asbestos for testing its signs in your home.
Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure
The health risks of asbestos exposure cannot be overemphasized as its exposure has been recently linked to many health problems. When airborne or loose asbestos fibers are breathed-in, they are lodged in the lungs soft tissues or abdomen and cause inflammation in the lung. These lodged fibers are difficult to expel by the body; hence, cause many significant health issues, including cancer and genetic mutations.
They have both short-term and long-term symptoms up to 20 to 50 years after the first exposure. Below are the health risks of asbestos exposure:
- Lung cancer: This is one of the primary health issues of asbestos-related problems. It accounts for about 4% of cases of lung cancer globally. Asbestos exposure has been studied to increase the risk of developing lung cancer. However, the chances of getting asbestos-related lung cancer depend on some factors, namely:
- The level and duration of exposure
- The size and type of asbestos fibers
- The age and time since exposure take place
- The smoking history of person
- Asbestosis: It can be described as a severe lung disease which is characterized by scar-like and inflammative lung tissue (pulmonary fibrosis); hence, it prevents the lungs from relaxing and expanding as expected. The patient experiences typically difficulty in breathing, and as well as “crackles” (these sounds can only be heard via a stethoscope).
- Mesothelioma: This is another aggressive and deadly asbestos-related cancer disease occurring from the mesothelia cells that cover the lung, abdominal, and heart cavities. It is more common among the household members and the asbestos workers as a result of continuous exposure to asbestos.
- Pleural plaques: Pleural plaques are symbolized by thickening of the fibrous that are lining the lungs, and they are commonly found among asbestos exposure related workers and household family members.
There are also other health problems that may not be directly linked with exposure of asbestos, but its exposure can increase the chances of the problems. Example of which is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). However, the risks of many of these health problems can be prevented and controlled if asbestos materials or products are:
- Adequately covered to prevent loosing and airborne
- Isolated in the attic
- Closely bound and always in good condition
- Remained undisturbed
- Frequently carry out asbestos testing for possible leakage.
One of the processes of carrying out asbestos testing is taking an asbestos sampling. Testing the presence of asbestos leakage in your home does not mean that you must remove all the asbestos materials in your home; thereby increases the cost of renovation and control. A sample will do it. You only need the technical know-how of how to perform the task. This will be discussed next.
How to Take Asbestos Material Sampling
Once again, taking of asbestos material sampling is recommended to be performed by an experienced and trained professional like a licensed indoor air quality professional or any other accredited asbestos inspection bodies. Taking the sample yourself may expose you and other people around you to asbestos fibers because you are not trained to do so. However, below are the required steps involved in taking a sampling of asbestos material:
- Step 1 – Preparation
This is the preparation stage to prepare yourself for the sampling. This step is essential to prevent contact with asbestos fibers in the process of taking your material sample. They are listed below:
- Before laying your hand on anything, the first step is to contact an accredited laboratory to get information on how your samples can be transported.
- It is essential to isolate the area to take the material sample from people.
- Switch off any cooling and heating system or fan in the home to prevent possible release of fibers spread.
- Make available all the required equipment such as gloves, pliers, waterproof sealant, resealable plastic bags, water spray bottle, plastic drop sheets, disposable coveralls, thick plastic waste bag, and P2 respirator.
- Step 2 – Taking the sample
Take the sample with the following steps:
- Wear a P2 respirator, a pair of gloves, respirator and disposable coverall.
- Spread a plastic drop sheet on the floor to catch any fall off materials during sampling taking.
- To minimize fibers release, wet the material with water mist containing detergent using a spray bottle.
- Use the pliers to cut a small piece of the material. This should be done carefully to prevent the release of fibers. Taking the sample from a corner is more advisable.
- Immediately put the sample in a resealable plastic bag. Ensure that the bag is doubled and well-labeled with the required information such as location, date, and any other useful details in the laboratory. This label is significant to the sample and must be well placed on the container body with non-washable paper or sticker.
- Step 3 – Cleaning up
It is essential to cover up area the sample was taken to prevent the escape of asbestos fibers to the air. Follow the steps below:
- Seal off the area with a waterproof sealant. You can as well seal off the edges with the mixture of water and PVA glue in the ratio 1:10, or using paint to cover up the place.
- Cautiously remove the plastic drop sheet by wrapping it up and closely secure with tape. Then drop it in a thick plastic waste bag.
- Clean all the tools used with a damp towel or rag.
- Pack all the protective materials such as coveralls, disposable gloves, damp towel or rag, and drop into the plastic bag.
- Drop the sealed bag into another sealable bag and label it as asbestos waste. Then, dispose of at an asbestos waste center.
- Remove your respirator. Note that this should be the last step after completing the entire clean-up actions.
- Thoroughly shower to remove any traces of fiber residues.
- Make arrangement on how to transport the sample to the laboratory.
What to do if you have Asbestos in your Home?
You cannot help it but have asbestos in your home; so, don’t panic, as you are not alone in this condition. Based on the location, condition, and the risk of moving the asbestos, it may not even involve any action. For example, if asbestos is in good condition and properly covered, there are no means of fiber releases; hence, no risk and it should be left untouched. However, if you notice any signs or symptoms of asbestos from a material in your home don’t touch or rub or cause any vibration to the material that may lead to fiber releasing into the air. Call for an assistance of a professional indoor air quality for advice and further necessary actions.
Based on the above, it shows that asbestos poses a serious threat to the health of the house occupants and its effects are mostly apparent from home exposure to asbestos materials. The only way out is to get your house tested for a possible presence of asbestos in the air your breathe within the home environment.
However, when you are seeking for the advice of a professional, ensure you hire the most qualified and experienced indoor air quality. Simon Air Quality is one of the tested and trusted indoor air quality professionals in Ottawa. Get in touch with us today!