Before you dig into that remodeling project, you should survey the material to be sure you’re not unleashing dangerous asbestos fibers. Brian Hutchins with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says your home doesn’t have to be decades old to contain asbestos materials.
“I guess the research would tell us that it’s more prevalent in older homes — like prior to 1990 — but it’s not to say that it can’t be in newer construction as well,” Hutchins says. “Asbestos products can still be imported into the U.S. and there’s just a whole lot of different products that have used asbestos.”
Asbestos fibers can cause disease or cancer more than 20 years after the exposure. There are some key areas where you might find asbestos.
“Piping insulation, that is an area where it is pretty common that it’s asbestos-containing material, especially in the old thermal insulation material. Flooring material, things like floor tile, linoleum and also the adhesive that is used to glue those materials down. Roofing material — it could be present in shingles and felt paper, and insulation as well,” Hutchins says.
He says you may not be able to tell if a material contains asbestos and should have it checked out. “The only way to know for sure is to actually have the material tested. It really should be sampled by a certified inspector, and then that gets sent into a lab where it is analyzed to determine its asbestos content,” according to Hutchins.
There are state regulations that apply to asbestos removal for commercial buildings, but they don’t apply to single family homes. Even so, Hutchins says you should really have a professional remove the asbestos, as doing it the wrong way increases your exposure.
“As long as the material is not damaged and you’re not going to be disturbing it, there’s really no health concern at that point,” he says. “It’s really when you start disturbing that material and releasing those fibers into the air.”
Hutchins says the state certifies people who remove asbestos and you should look for someone with certification to do any removal work. July is Asbestos Awareness Month.