Asbestos, once considered a “wonder material”, is today a hidden danger for many Phoenix area homes and commercial buildings.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the commercial name used for a group of naturally-occurring, fibrous silicate minerals. It’s easy to mine and found all over the world, including right here in Arizona. Large-scale mining began in the mid-19th century. Until the mid-1960s, there were several active asbestos mines right outside Phoenix.
The most valuable property of asbestos is its natural resistance to heat and fire. This is why it became such a popular building material. Unfortunately, this “wonder material” has a huge downside. Exposure to asbestos fibers is dangerous.
1. Where is Asbestos Found in Homes?
Unless your home is a newer build, it likely contains some building material made with what is asbestos, unfortunately.
2. When Was it Used in Homes?
Popular in Ancient Times
Upon discovering the amazing fire-resistant properties of asbestos, humans have used it since ancient times to insulate cooking utensils and pottery. It was particularly prized in ancient Greece and Rome for lantern wicks and oven insulation.
In the middle ages, Emperor Charlemagne was known to throw a tablecloth woven with asbestos into the fireplace, and then retrieve it unscathed as a parlor trick to impress his dinner guests.
Asbestos was re-discovered by Edwardian engineers in the 19th century, and by the 1950s, asbestos was commonly used in building insulation to prevent fires.
EPA Ban Due to Health Concerns
Asbestos-related health issues can take decades to appear, so it wasn’t until more than a century later that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began issuing regulations about the use of asbestos. The first of which, in 1973, banned spray-applied surfacing asbestos-containing material that was used for fireproofing and insulating purposes.
Subsequent regulations continued to limit the use of asbestos until April of 2019 when the EPA issued a final rule prohibiting any previously banned asbestos-containing products from ever returning to the market.
Still Used Today Right Here in Phoenix
Nonetheless, asbestos is not completely banned today, and is currently used in several thousand building material products, including those used in swimming pool construction here in Maricopa County. The most common asbestos-containing construction materials used in pools are cementitious materials, like gunite, shotcrete and plaster.
What to do if Asbestos is in Your Home?
Most homes, especially older ones built before 1981, have some asbestos in them. When asbestos material is contained, and not airborne, it poses little or no health threat. Problems occur when asbestos particles become airborne and we breathe them into our lungs.
Asbestos becomes airborne when the asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or improperly handled during repairs, renovation, or removal. Because the fibers are microscopic and practically invisible, you may not realize that an exposure occurred.
Get Your Home Tested Before Starting Damage Restoration
Don’t panic if you think you may have asbestos in your home! Arizona Total Home Restoration is here in the Phoenix Metropolitan area to make sure you get the asbestos testing and asbestos abatement your home needs. We’ll keep you and your family safe during the restoration process.
How to Test for Asbestos?
To test for asbestos, we carefully collect samples and send them to a certified lab for testing. To avoid release of these dangerous fibers, only qualified and properly equipped technicians should perform the materials collection. Our technicians are trained to safely gather and handle these samples.
3. About Asbestos Poisoning
Asbestos isn’t actually a poison, although it would damage your stomach and intestines if you ate it. Rather, asbestos is dangerous because of the damage it does to our lungs if we breathe it in.
Most symptoms of asbestos exposure don’t show until 10 to 40 years after exposure. It takes time for the mineral fibers to damage and scar the lungs enough to impede breathing.
According to health professionals, symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath, persistent dry cough, pain or tightness in your chest, and a crackling sound in your lungs when you breathe.
4. What to do if You Get Asbestos on Your Clothes?
If you suspect asbestos on your clothes, the first thing to remember is NOT to brush it off. This releases the dangerous fibers into the air where they are inhaled.
Wet the material down to limit the fibers’ movement, put on gloves and carefully remove the clothing. Secure the clothing in a plastic bag to contain the asbestos fibers.
Unless this is your favorite outfit, your best bet is discarding it in an approved manner.
Contact your local hazardous materials waste collection department for information on how to dispose of contaminated clothing: