Did you know ... The first week of April isGlobal Asbestos Awareness Week, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the deadly toxin and preventing future asbestos-related illnesses from occurring.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) renovators are now the most at-risk for asbestos-related cancer, even more so than construction workers and those who regularly encounter asbestos on the job. A lack of knowledge, preventative awareness, and protection within the DIY community is to blame for the rise in asbestos-related illnesses. Before buying an older home or starting a renovation, know the dangers before putting yourself at risk.
Dangers of asbestos
Asbestos is a once-popular building material and known carcinogen. Used heavily in construction between the late 1800s and 1990, asbestos was a low cost, heat resistant substance used in a variety of products, including insulation, ceiling tiles, flooring, and roofing. Unless items are labeled as containing asbestos, it may be impossible to know exactly where it’s lurking.
Though relatively harmless is left completely intact, asbestos becomes extremely dangerous once broken up, allowing the small fibers to become airborne. Once inhaled or ingested, the asbestos fibres may embed themselves within the lining of the lungs, eventually causing mesothelioma cancer. Mesothelioma is a deadly disease with an extremely poor prognosis. Those exposed to asbestos without proper protection will not know if they have been affected for decades, as mesothelioma has an unusually long latency period of anywhere from 15 to 50 years.
New Zealand began prohibiting the importation of asbestos products and materials almost two years ago, but asbestos-related deaths will still continue for years to come as old structures slowly deteriorate and are torn down or renovated.
Asbestos in the home
Mesothelioma is almost completely avoidable if proper precautions are taken during a renovation. Unfortunately, there is no telling how many locations within a home may contain asbestos. It could be found almost anywhere, especially in older homes, because of the large number of products that were once built using the toxic mineral.
To start, know where the danger zones are in each area of a house. In the kitchen, beware of old kitchen stoves, walls, and vinyl flooring. Use extra caution when handling furnaces, water heaters, and hot water piping commonly found in basements. Older homes are also notorious for using asbestos in cement siding, roof shingles, undersheeting, and around windows. Within the walls, pay close attention to insulation and patching compounds, both products known to have been manufactured with asbestos.
Even though it is possible to remove asbestos from a house without the help of a professional, it is not recommended and the risk of doing so isn’t worth the cost. Before demolition, inspect the house diligently and consider bringing in a professional to test for asbestos. When looking into buying an older home try to test for asbestos early on to save yourself a headache, especially when there are plans to renovate down the road.
Whether you’re renovating your own house, or looking to buy an older home to flip, proceed with extreme caution. The rewards of a newly renovated house do not outweigh the risks of coming into contact with asbestos. Prevention is possible by taking appropriate precautions and contacting a professional prior to the demolition or purchase of an older home!
For more information on the dangers of asbestos click HERE