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What if asbestos is inside my home?

You have an old house that was built in the early 1900s, and your family is investing thousands of dollars in a remodeling project. The contractors have signed on for the work and are about to begin. But you may have overlooked something.

Asbestos? Couldn’t be, you think. Your inspector made no mention of it when you bought the house four years earlier. But upon your research, you learn that many older homes – including some built through the 1980s – contain asbestos.

What you discover soon startles you. Asbestos – a fire-retardant material used in home construction – can be found in a number of places within a home. When asbestos becomes damaged, its fibers become airborne and easily inhaled, potentially leading to severe illnesses such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Where asbestos may be found in homes

Inside a home, asbestos can be found in:

  • Certain ceilings such as the acoustic type sometimes referred to as “popcorn” or “textured” ceilings. Most were installed from the 1950s through 1970s, and some through the mid-1980s
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Shingle siding often installed in the 1940s and early 1950s.
  • Plaster and drywall finishing products
  • Attic insulation
  • Pipe insulation

Why didn’t the inspector tell you? Because he or she was not obligated to do so. Inspectors generally do not provide asbestos information in their reports, because asbestos falls within the category of an environmental hazard, which is not within the scope of a typical home inspection.

Health ailments due to asbestos exposure

A number of health ailments can be attributed to asbestos exposure, and include certain forms of cancer as noted earlier. Here is list of some of those ailments:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Asbestosis
  • Pleural disease as well as pleural effusion
  • Clubbed fingers and toes

If your home has asbestos, you have two basic options. You can sell the home, but you are required to provide full disclosure to prospective buyers that asbestos exists inside the structure. The other option is to have the asbestos removed. If you go this route, make sure to hire an expert and licensed contractor who knows how to safely deal with asbestos.

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