Category: Asbestos

Descriptions of asbestos

Home Decor And Maintenance

If you own a home for any length of time, you will probably plan to improve some aspect of it at some point, even if it’s just painting a door or a wall. And home improvement can also be a great hobby: it can build useful skills and give you a great sense of satisfaction. Of course, it can also improve the function and look of your home, provided it is done correctly!

Planning

Planning ahead is vital if you don’t want to waste money and time. Check out home decor and DIY magazines and books for ideas and inspiration. Give yourself some time to learn, rather than just jumping into action straight away. Take some design elements from pictures you see, and use other people’s ideas to help spark your creativity. You might even want to create a vision board or journal to keep ideas to think about.

It’s also important to remember that every piece of real estate is subject to building codes; without proper research, the requirements imposed by local codes and zoning regulations can present a nasty surprise to those who intend to do home maintenance or to make major improvements to their home, including removing walls, extending the building or converting a roof space or garage. You could find that your expensive work is not approved and have to spend money returning your house to the way it was!

When thinking about making a major renovation to your home, check the kind of return that you could hope to get from your investment, as some updates can be a bit of an overkill depending on the neighborhood you live in, especially if you might be thinking about selling your home within a couple of years of doing this renovation. If you do too much, you might not get your money back on the improvements you made. Also think about how any changes might affect your home’s resale value. For example, you might think about converting your garage into a living room to meet your immediate needs, but this might affect your chance of selling or the price you might get at a later date. Even if you don’t plan on selling immediately, circumstances can change, and you may have to spend additional money getting your home back to the way it was.

Getting The Work Done

If you have the time and the skills, you may plan to do all the work yourself, but if you need to bring someone in, don’t ever hire an unlicensed contractor. General contractors as well as sub contractors are required to have certification in most states. This does not guarantee competence, but it is legally required. If contractors are not adequately licensed and insured, you don’t want to hire them. Always insist on references before hiring a contractor to work on your home improvement project. Hiring a competent and experienced professional is worth the money to give you peace of mind that the job is done right the first time.

Tools And Materials

It is important to use the highest quality supplies and tools when doing a home improvement project. You may spend more initially, but you’ll save money down the road. Better quality products survive wear and tear and last longer. Tools can be expensive and you don’t want to have to replace them regularly.

Get The Basics Checked

Before you start remodeling or redecorating a room, bring in a professional for an electrical checkup. This is a legal requirement in some places. You also need to check the plumbing, to be sure that it is in good working condition. It’s no fun having to tear out a new floor or rip into a new wall, to make a repair that should have been done before doing the work.

Asbestos

If your house is an older one, you will need to check for asbestos before starting in to major work. For instance, if you have older floor tiles or a popcorn ceiling, it will need to be tested to see if it contains asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring but harmful substance that requires extra care when it is removed and disposed of, but it is generally only harmful if disturbed. If you do find asbestos, you will need to hire a special crew, who are trained and licensed to remove it.

What does the siding on your home look like? Do you have an asbestos siding? If so, again, if you plan on removing it, whether to replace it with more modern siding or because it is in poor condition, you will need to hire a licensed asbestos removal contractor. The same goes for asbestos roof tiles or slates. If your roof is damaged and needs repaired, and the slates or tiles on it are asbestos, any damaged ones that need removed must be dealt with by a licensed contractor and disposed of properly.

Asbestos Tiles

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous, mineral material which is extremely hazardous when the fibers become airborne and are inhaled, because these fibers adhere to the lining of the lungs, and can cause cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos fibers are very fine and the most dangerous ones are the ones you cannot see with the naked eye, because they can penetrate the deepest areas of the lungs.

Asbestos Tiles

You may think you are safe from these substances in your own home but at one time it was quite popular to choose asbestos tiles as a form of flooring. Asbestos has good insulating and fire resisting properties and to this day you can actually find old asbestos floor tiles which have been hidden under carpeting for instance. While they remain undisturbed and in good condition, they are safe and it is legal for them to remain there but the problem comes when you want to remodel your home or lay down a fresh floor or the tiles are no longer in good condition.

If you are in an older house then it is a legal requirement that you need to consider whether your floor tiles contain asbestos before you start to remove them or replace them or do work that could cause asbestos fibers to be released into the air. If you suspect that your floor tiles contain asbestos, you will need to call in a trained and registered contractor who is legally able to remove and safely dispose of the asbestos material.

If you suspect that your floor tiles contain asbestos, then it is also possible that other areas of your house contain asbestos too.
You can find it in fuse boxes; it would be behind the actual fuse. Textiles and composites made of asbestos were also around at the same time as asbestos tiles were. It could also be found in old heat resistant gloves and fire blankets. Bath panels, window sills, toilet seats and cisterns may also contain asbestos composites. Asbestos paper was actually used inside metal cladding and for lining under tiles.

What do These Look Like?

These materials which contain asbestos are not really that distinctive from what is used nowadays, this includes asbestos tiles. It is recommended that you look for a trade name, if that cannot be found then inquire with the previous homeowners as to how long they have had certain thing or how long ago certain materials were installed in the home. If you do find a trade name, you can easily look it up online and receive further information on it.

How Dangerous is it To Work With These Materials?

Working with any kind of material that contains any type of asbestos is very dangerous. That being said, there are tasks with certain materials that can be carried out by workers who are non-licensed yet appropriately trained.

Normally, work on certain material is not necessarily notifiable; the exception would be if the materials are not in good condition. Another exception would be if the work will most likely cause significant deterioration and breakup of the material, notification in this case would be required.

Home Remodeling

Home remodeling is something that needs to be done every so often if you plan to live in a house for a long time or if you move into an old house. Bathrooms and kitchens don’t last forever and changes in family size may mean you have to make changes to your home to match your family’s needs. This is a task that has to be thought about and done properly or else it could turn out wrong. It is also important, if your home is an older one, that you consider whether there may be any asbestos present and if so, that you take the correct steps to minimize risk to the occupants and anyone else.

Plan

You may know the saying, “to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail” and nowhere is this more true than in home remodeling. You need to know how to plan properly, whether you are going to do the work yourself or bring someone in to do some or all of it. If you do not plan, then you may end up with a project on your hands that you cannot finish. It can cost a lot more money if you make a mistake to fix that mistake by hiring someone than if you were to just have someone work on this that was an expert in the first place. Think about what you are going to do to get to the end result that you are looking for, and make sure you write down every step that you need to take before you take it.

Hiring

Make sure that if you do hire someone, that they have three years experience or more if possible. You do not want to just hire someone random that does general contracting and just got started in the field. You need to make sure that you do some research on everyone that you are going to hire to see if they have done past work that people were happy with. You can generally find out more about a contractor or a company if you look their name up online and try to find reviews about them. Sometimes a friend will have used someone they were happy with but make sure that it was for the same kind of work.

Contract

Whether you use a legal contract or not, when you agree work with someone for a price, you are setting up a contract with them, so you need to put together something that makes sense to both of you and that is enforceable. You do not want to go into this without a contract because then if they don’t do the work properly you have no legal recourse. You are going to want to make note of the dates when the work will be done, and when it should start. You also need to make sure you make note of everything that you are going to have done. Otherwise, you may as well hire an attorney right now because something could go wrong if there isn’t anything in writing and you wouldn’t have any recourse. Any contractor worth having is going to provide you with a quote or estimate, with details of all the work to be done that has been agreed between you. There may also be unexpected work that cannot be quoted for before the job starts (maybe somethiing hidden) but make sure that a limit is put on any extra that can be charged, to avoid nasty surprises when the final bill arrives.

Store Your Valuables

Make sure that when someone is remodeling your home, that you put away your valuables. You do not want your house to be set up the way it is right now if you want someone to come in and help you remodel. For instance, a vase that is very expensive and sitting on a table around the work site could get knocked off the table and broken. You are better off putting everything in a room and locking it up if possible so that you don’t have to worry about it going missing or other problems with it.

Get The Tools

If you are going to do the remodeling yourself, you will need the correct tools and protective equipment, whether that is breathing masks, gloves, hard helmets or eye protection. You may be able to hire the tools you need and if so, the supplier should be able to advise you on safety and protective equipment.

Can You Do It?

Home remodeling is something that you have to take seriously. There are a lot of factors at play here and you need to make sure that you get help if you’re not comfortable with dealing with all of this alone. Anyone can remodel a home whether they have to hire someone or do it themselves and sometimes, the planning is almost the best part, except for actually moving into your remodeled home.

Asbestos Definition

Asbestos Definition

Loose asbestos fibers

Billbeee at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

What the term “asbestos” refers to is a set of six fibrous minerals that are naturally occurring, those are crocidolite, anthophyllite, actinolite, chrysotile, amosite, and tremolite. Among these, the most common are chrysotile and amosite asbestos.

Any material that contains more than one percent of asbestos is defined as Asbestos Containing Material (ACM). This can include insulation on pipework and boilers, fireproofing that has been sprayed or troweled on, sound proofing material such as acoustic plaster, floor, ceiling and wall tiles and linoleum, roofing materials, ceiling plaster, fuse box insulation and gasket materials.

Although in nature asbestos fibers are microscopic, they are resistant to fire and most chemical breakdown and reactions and they are extremely durable. These properties that asbestos offers are the reasons which for many years its use was supported in a number of different industrial and commercial capacities.

The resistance to heat of asbestos combined with its strength allowed it to become the choice material for various products, including cement compounds, automotive parts, roofing shingles, ceiling materials, and textile products. As exposure to this toxic material has now been scientifically and directly linked to a variety of respiratory and lung conditions such as mesothelioma, its use and removal is now strictly regulated.

Why Is Asbestos Hazardous?

There was a sharp decline in the use of asbestos in the late 1970s when it started to become evident that it was posing a threat to the health and safety of humans. Nowadays, asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen. The durability factor of asbestos which made it so desirable to manufacturers is in fact what makes it so extremely hazardous.

Asbestos fibers are roughly around .02 the diameter of a human hair, they are microscopic and as such they are inhaled easily. Once the fibers have been inhaled, they cling to the respiratory system; this includes the inner cavity tissue and the lining of the lungs. Being as typically, asbestos fibers are quite rigid; they become lodged in the respiratory system and are not easily broken down by the body or expelled.

In some capacity, due to the extensive use of the mineral in industrial, commercial and even domestic products, hundreds and thousands of people were exposed to it. There is not a single type of asbestos that is safe nor is there a safe level of exposure. Nearly everyone who has ever been exposed to asbestos is potentially at risk of respiratory health complications that are quite serious.

Who Is At Risk Of Being Exposed to Asbestos?

There are hundreds of occupations that were affected by asbestos exposure. Some of the industries in which asbestos was especially prevalent include but are not limited to commercial product manufacturing, construction, shipbuilding, and power plants. Prior to 1980, workers employed in these industries likely came into contact with asbestos products. Also at high risk for having been exposed to asbestos are military veterans.

Although exposure to asbestos is hazardous, not every asbestos product is inherently hazardous. Being as in order to represent health risk asbestos must be inhaled, a true hazard is represented only by asbestos found in the air supply, a condition that is known as friable, or loose asbestos fibers. Stable asbestos compounds, such as tiles, intact cement, or other products, generally are not an immediate hazard. If you believe that you have been exposed to asbestos in some way or another, it is important to report it and seek immediate medical evaluation.

Asbestos Curtains

Claude Shafer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Theatre Fire

The cartoon above was drawn following the Iroquois Theater fire, which took place December 30, 1903, in Chicago, Illinois and in which at least 602 people died. It was the deadliest theater fire ever in the US.

The theater was billed as fireproof, however, the fire department had toured it before opening and found it deficient, as had others, including the use of wood in the construction and a lack of fire exits but they were unable to stop it opening and operating.

A fire started backstage, during an afternoon performance when a cloth curtain went on fire, and flames climbed high above the stage, igniting canvas stage scenery. The “fireproof” curtain was blocked from dropping by the construction and was later found not to be fireproof anyway, containing only a small amount of asbestos!

The audience included many women and children and the only way out was down a staircase that was blocked by the many people trying to use it at the same time. As the actors and stage hands leaving at the back managed to escape, their escape doors let in blasts of wind that fanned the flames at the front, creating a fireball that incinerated those still trapped in the upper levels of the theater.

The tragedy was the impulse for many health and safety laws on theater safety.

Building Consultants Asbestos Fine

Danger sign for asbestos

Asbestos is Dangerous

Building consultants, Watts Group PLC were prosecuted and fined £30,000, plus costs in January 2016 for health and safety breaches that allowed two construction workers to be exposed to asbestos.

The group was the asbestos removal project manager and surveyed for asbestos prior to replacement of doors in a service duct below a hospital. They drew up plans showing where asbestos was present and where it had been removed. The survey, however was defective and asbestos in poor condition was present throughout the area but not shown on the plans.

It is vital to health and also to comply with legal requirements that the correct type of asbestos survey is carried out systematically and results recorded. Information on where to find asbestos can be found on the HSE website.

Persons responsible for managing premises such as shops or industrial units have a duty to manage asbestos. You can find out more about that at HSENI’s ‘Duty to manage asbestos’ page

Asbestos found in Children’s Crayons

Some crayons, imported from China, have been found to contain traces of Asbestos!

crayons

crayons

They are not being recalled because the asbestos is set in wax and is thus not thought to be a problem for inhalation.  However, experts at UKATA say that any level of asbestos present in a children’s product, is unacceptable because asbestos presents very real dangers of cancer. And while the asbestos may be set in wax, reducing dangers of inhalation, many children put crayons in their mouths and parents may not find this a problem as they believe the wax is non-toxic.

 

One company has already pulled the crayons, (some marketed with images from films such as Frozen and TV programmes like Peppa Pig) from its shelves, bringing praise for acting responsibly.

 

 

Heating Engineer Fined £5,000 and costs – Asbestos Risk

Circular Saw

Circular Saw

A self employed heating engineer was prosecuted and fined for not preventing exposure to asbestos in a home where he was carrying out work. He was installing a new heating system at the home and removed redundant pipework with a circular saw and then carried the lagged pipework through the house and left it outside in the garden. This meant that asbestos fibres could have been released exposing both him and the homeowners to contamination.

The contractor had not undertaken any asbestos awareness training, which would have helped him recognise that the lagging could contain asbestos. Once recognised as a possible source of asbestos, he should have had it removed by a licensed contractor. As it was, the house owners had to move out for their home to be decontaminated.

Karl Locher pleaded guilty at Trafford Magistrates’ Court to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £5,000 with £3,000 costs.

Remember, his insurance company will also have had to pay for compensation associated with this, so his insurance costs will skyrocket too!

7 Surprising Uses Of Asbestos

Asbestos

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is useful for insulation for fire, heat and sound and was widely used in the 19th and early 20th centuries until the health problems associated with its use (causes cancer) meant it became banned in most countries. Asbestos had been used for thousands of years before this and some quite surprising uses were made of it. For instance:

1. Burn The Tablecloth to Clean It

Charlemagne

Charlemagne

The Emperoror Charlemagne is said to have had a tablecloth made of asbestos that was thrown on the fire to clean it and retrieved totally unharmed. He may have got the idea from the Persians who did the same with napkins. Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asbestos

2. Used as Artificial Snow

Snow scenes in films used to use asbestos to produce the snow effect, for instance in the

Judy Garland

Judy Garland, in the Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz film (1939) with Judy Garland and in Holiday Inn (1942) with Bing Crosby, where Bing sang the classical “White Christmas” song. It was also supplied as fake snow for households to use as decoration at Christmas. Credit: http://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/products/fake-snow/

3. Baby Talcum Powder used to contain Asbestos

Talc is a mineral that is mined from the Earth and is used in many cosmetics and for making talcum powder. It is often found in areas where asbestos is also found, so there can be some contamination of the talc with asbestos. Since the 1970s, companies in the USA have been required to ensure that cosmetic grade talc is free from asbestos. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm

4. Used in Making Cheese

Spores were placed on asbestos for making blue cheeses

Credit: http://www.weitzlux.com/asbestos-products_1962747.html

5. Used in Fermentation Tanks for Producing Methane.

Credit: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC533400/pdf/jbacter00821-0058.pdf Page 70

6. Used to Give the Appearance of Dust in Theatre Productions

cobwebFor instance, dust on Cobwebs and wine kegs and in old attics!.

Credit: http://www.aic.org.uk/Asbestsuses.htm

7. In Soldiers’ Helmets and Gas Masks

gas mask and helmet

gas mask and helmet

Asbestos was used in helmets from WWI and in gas masks in WW2

Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2626948/Teachers-told-use-wartime-helmets-gas-masks-classroom-props-contain-ASBESTOS.html

Sources of Asbestos Hazards

Where can Asbestos be Found? Potential Sources of Asbestos

Warning sign for potential asbestos

Asbestos Hazard Warning Sign

Do you have any idea where asbestos is lurking? Though regulations have become quite strict, there are still some residential and commercial sources of asbestos.

Asbestos products have gradually been disappearing but they were widely used before the introduction of bans on the use of this material and it’s still possible to find asbestos in older constructions.

Identifying and getting rid of asbestos is essential because of the numerous health risks associated to it. Here are some of the most common sources of asbestos that you could come across.

 

Asbestos Cement

water tank

water tank

Asbestos cement roofs and flues were common in the past. Asbestos cement roofs can be commonly found on farms and commercial properties.

Sometimes, asbestos can also be discovered in the roofs of sheds or garages. Asbestos cement flues were common in boiler systems, air conditioning and ventilation. These were typical for both commercial and residential developments.

Asbestos cement was sometimes used in the construction of water tanks, as well. Properties constructed prior to the 1980s could potentially have a water tank made of this material.

Sealants

furnace

furnace

Until the 1980s, asbestos was frequently used as a sealant around windows and doors. Its insulating properties made the material a really common pick in both residential and commercial buildings.

Asbestos is also heat-resistant, which is why the material could be found as a sealant in old furnaces. Cleaning older furnaces could potentially be a dangerous activity because it may release the asbestos particles in the air. Figuring out whether the material was used for insulation prior to getting started with cleaning will be essential.

 

 

Wallpaper

Yes, asbestos could be found in something as innocent as old wallpaper.

wallpaper

wallpaper

Many vinyl papers made prior to the 1980s contain asbestos. Removing those and replacing them with something a bit more innovative could be a downright dangerous task. Intact wallpaper isn’t dangerous but trying to tear it from the walls will release the asbestos fibers in the air.

If you’re looking at an older house that’s in need of wallpaper removal, you should first talk to a professional about it. Experts in the field will test the wallpaper and the adhesive for asbestos, after which they’ll recommend the best removal procedure.

Textured Coatings

textured coating

textured coating

In the past, textured coatings were used as a decorative finish. They were popular for use on the walls and the ceilings of buildings.

Depending on the particular decorative effect that was sought, such textured coatings could have peaks or different patterns. The original color of the material is white. It can easily be painted over.

If undisturbed, textured coatings containing asbestos are not dangerous. Still, it’s essential to get those identified and assess the risk. If you plan to carry out a renovation project in the future that involves tearing down the coating, you’ll need professional assistance.

Floor Covers

Vinyl sheets and rubber floor covers often contained asbestos fibers in the past. These

floor tiles

textured tiles

materials were “tight” and heavy because of the presence of asbestos fibers. Even the adhesive that was used for such floor covers contained some amount of asbestos.

It’s a general assumption that floor covers and tiles installed prior to the 1980s contain some amount of asbestos.

The amount of asbestos in flooring is generally small and older floors can be easily covered with new materials. If the old flooring is to be removed, however, the danger will have to be evaluated in advance.

How to Check for Asbestos and Identify It

A visual inspection of your home, office or other commercial property is the only one you should be undertaking. Don’t disturb the material that could potentially be a source of asbestos. Inhaling the fibers will increase the risk of experiencing asbestos-related health problems, so be careful about it.

Asbestos is a fibrous material and any old insulation fibers could potentially contain it. Requesting the assistance of a certified professional is the best idea in such situations. The professional will take a small sample from the questionable material and lab exams will be performed to determine whether there is asbestos.

Depending on the location of the material and its condition, you’ll have to determine whether to remove it or leave it undisturbed. Asbestos products in good condition will not release dangerous fibers. If any damage has been incurred, however, safe removal will be the best strategy.

Any older building comes with the risk of asbestos being present in the construction materials. Since the health risks associated with asbestos are serious, it’s important to identify it and assess the material’s condition early enough. Asbestos-containing materials may be isolated, repaired or removed. Whichever option you choose, it’s crucial to pick a certified professional for the execution of the task.