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Determining If There Is Asbestos In Your Home

If your home was built before 1980, then your home may contain asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used throughout the 20th century in household building materials such as roofing, siding, insulation, flooring and much more.  As asbestos lawsuits accrued and the dangers of asbestos became known, the carcinogen ceased being used in homes, but the lingering effects of such a widespread product continues to pose a threat to families. Asbestos found in the home today should be removed if possible, but since it hasn’t been used in such mass quantities for a generation, one might find it difficult in identifying the carcinogen. Other strength building materials such as horsehair was used in plaster around the same time period as asbestos and can be easily mistaken for asbestos because of its appearance. Identifying asbestos in your home can be a challenge. The only way to be completely sure if you suspect asbestos in your home is to hire an asbestos professional to inspect the area.

Many asbestos abatement companies will also come to inspect your property. Asbestos fibers are very small and a visual inspection might not be enough, so samples will have to be taken to a laboratory to conclude whether or not there is asbestos in the home. Two common laboratory methods include Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM).

  • PLM – Illuminating samples with polarized light, this method of determining if asbestos is in your home takes a close look at the sample under a microscope – magnifying up to 400x. It’s the quickest and least expensive way to identify friable asbestos fibers; however TEM is more accurate in determining the type of asbestos fibers. This is important as some fibers are more lethal than others.
  • TEM – Using a beam of electrons and a sample of the potential asbestos containing material taken from the property, the beam passes through the sample and produces a high resolution image in which the sample can then be inspected. TEM has better resolution than PLM so the sample can be observed at a much higher magnification – up to 19,000x. TEM maybe be able to more accurately identify different types of asbestos fibers, but TEM is not as quick as PLM and is more expensive.

These two techniques not only determine if there is asbestos in the home, but also determine if the asbestos is friable or non-friable. Friable asbestos fibers mean that the asbestos containing material can be crumbled or reduced to an air-borne powder by just using hand pressure. If it cannot, then it is considered non-friable.

Common products that contain friable asbestos fibers:

  • Insulation
  • Acoustical plaster
  • Paper products
  • Spackling compound

Common products that contain non-friable asbestos fibers:

  • Floor tiles
  • Siding
  • Roofing

Non-friable asbestos fibers do not pose a threat because it is not air-borne; however, it can become friable if handled improperly.  Removing asbestos containing products that were glued into place or the demolition of a building can contribute to non-friable asbestos becoming friable. That is why it is important that you do not remove asbestos on your own and contact an asbestos abatement crew to handle the job professionally. Once the carcinogen is removed, the professionals will then test the air for asbestos fibers.

It’s unfortunate that for years companies knew and downplayed the dangers of asbestos and in doing so, they put the lives of their workers and the lives of the worker’s families at risk. Companies putting profits above workers health not only resulted in the illness of thousands of workers’ and their families but resulted in illnesses for generations to come, even after the widespread use of asbestos had ceased.

At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C. we have been helping workers and their families fight back against big corporations who did not notify and protect their workers from the dangers of asbestos for over 30 years.  GPW has represented thousands of mesotheliomalung cancer, and asbestos disease victims. In addition to outstanding trial experience, our asbestos attorneys are supported by a large and dedicated staff, many of whom have been with GPW for 15 or more years. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today for a free no obligation consultation.

Alana Graham, “Asbestos Identification and Quantification in Bulk Samples,” The Environmental Reporter (December 2008). [Link]

USDA Forest Service, Technology and Development, “What is the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos?” Facilities Toolbox, Missoula Technology and Development Center (March 24, 2013). [Link]