Home Owners and Asbestos Exposure

Historically, asbestos has been included in products around the home and have been one of the sources for construction material in the early 20th century. Both homeowners and construction workers have dealt with asbestos concerns during repairs, remodels and demolitions. In many cases, the presence of asbestos goes completely undetected, placing those on site at risk for inhaling airborne asbestos fibers.

The use of asbestos in homes was so extensive that it’s best to assume most homes built before the 2003 ban could contain some amount of asbestos products. Homeowners who perform do-it-yourself projects should especially understand the risks of asbestos exposure and familiarize themselves with common locations for asbestos products so they can avoid them.

Most countries have established strict regulations to minimize exposure levels and prevent future asbestos-related diseases from developing. According to the International Labor Organization, about 100,000 workers pass away from an asbestos-related disease each year.

Health Concerns

Asbestos exposure has been linked to lung cancer, peritoneal mesothelioma and other cancers. All of these conditions cause respiratory problems and are difficult to treat. Common symptoms include coughing, chest pain, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath, but such symptoms can take 50 years to arise after exposure occurs. If you experience respiratory problems and suspect you were exposed to asbestos during a home project, it’s important to undergo screening by a doctor who is familiar with asbestos-related disease.

What to Look For

Homeowners should not be too concerned about asbestos if their home was built after 1980. But a home built before this date is likely to contain asbestos-containing materials and certain locations present more hazards than others. Common locations for asbestos products include:

  • Attics
  • Roofs
  • Ceilings
  • Basements
  • Exterior siding
  • Flooring

Areas inside homes that needed insulating and fireproofing were hotspots for asbestos-containing materials. Some of the most common asbestos products used for home construction included:

  • Insulation
  • Roofing felt
  • Shingles
  • Exterior siding
  • HVAC parts
  • Popcorn ceilings

Safety Recommendations

It’s important to understand that not all asbestos-containing materials present a health hazard. If asbestos products are in good condition and aren’t damaged, asbestos fibers will not become airborne. However, any disturbance to asbestos products can result in airborne asbestos fibers.

If you’re performing a construction project and suspect the presence of asbestos-containing materials, hire a professional to come check them out. Handling asbestos is very dangerous and strict laws regulate how asbestos can be removed from a home. Proper disposal procedures are required as well.

Bio: Jensen Whitmer has been writing for the Mesothelioma Center for more than three years and he has an interest in spreading awareness about the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure.  I thank him for being a “guest blogger” on my site and for sharing this important information.

Electrical Safety: Some Thoughts on Knob and Tube Wiring and Insulation

Knob and tube electrical wiring was an early method of electrical wiring in buildings and was commonly used in North America from about 1880 to the 1930s.  While it was replaced with other electrical wiring methods decades ago, home with energized knob and tube electrical wiring still exist.

Knob and tube wiring consists of single-insulated copper conductors run within wall or ceiling cavities, passing through studs and ceiling/floor joists through protective porcelain insulating tubes.  The wires are supported along their length by porcelain knob insulators that have been nailed in place.

Knob and tube wiring runs at a higher temperature than modern wiring materials and requires a minimum of three inches of air space around the length of the wire.  This requirement adds an additional challenge to home owners wishing to add insulation in order to increase the comfort and energy efficiency of their older home.

If you have knob and tube electrical wiring in your home and plan to add insulation, first have a qualified electrical contractor inspect your wiring to ensure that it is safe prior to adding insulation.  Ensure that all connections are enclosed in appropriate protective boxes, that the wiring insulation is intact and in good condition and that it has not been modified in any manner since its original installation (addition of non-metalic sheathed cable wiring circuits, for example).

The next step, prior to insulating attics or floors where knob and tube wiring is present, is to identify and seal air leakage points.  This is an important step that will maximize the efficiency of the insulation, extend its life and assist in providing a comfortable and healthier living space.

Do not insulate wall cavities containing knob and tube wiring.

Knob and tube wiring in attics may be isolated by building a barricade around it with R-30 unfaced batts.  Ensure that the batts are at least three inches away from the knob and tube wiring.

While the presence of the older knob an tube wiring does not, in itself, violate national electric codes (though some regions forbid it), the best solution for knob and tube wiring is to replace it, if economically possible.

I’m sure that there are electrical contractors and weatherization folks who could add much to this topic and  I hope they will chime in.  Home owners should always consult a professional electrical contractor prior to adding insulation in the presence of knob and tube electrical wiring.

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