Why Is Asbestos No Longer Used in Construction, and What to Do If Your Home Has It

Last updated on March 27, 2024

Asbestos, once hailed for its heat resistance and durability, turned from a construction miracle to a hidden health menace, leading to its widespread ban in the building industry. This naturally occurring mineral, woven into fabrics or mixed with cement, was extensively used to insulate homes and fortify structures until alarming health risks surfaced.

Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause severe respiratory issues, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, bringing its use in construction to a near-global halt. In this section, we’ll explore the reasons behind the cessation of asbestos in construction and offer guidance for homeowners grappling with this hazardous material.

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Health Hazards of Asbestos

Health Hazards of Asbestos

The primary health hazards of asbestos arise from its microscopic fibers, which, when disturbed, become airborne and easily inhaled. Over time, these fibers can accumulate in the lungs, leading to scarring, inflammation, and, ultimately, the development of serious diseases such as asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.

These conditions are particularly nefarious because symptoms may not appear until decades after exposure, making them difficult to diagnose and treat in the early stages.

Occupational exposure used to be the most common route of contact with asbestos, often affecting construction workers, miners, and shipbuilders. However, the danger extends to residential areas as well, particularly in homes built before the 1980s.

Asbestos might still be present in old pipe insulation, floor tiles, roof shingles, and the lining of ducts. If homeowners suspect the presence of asbestos, it’s imperative not to disturb it, as this can release harmful fibers into the air.

Upon suspicion of asbestos in your home, it’s crucial to seek professional assessment and removal services. The personal injury lawyers at ltlaw.com, for example, can provide valuable legal guidance for those affected by asbestos exposure.

By consulting with experts who specialize in asbestos-related cases, homeowners can take appropriate steps to ensure their living environments are safe and free from this hazardous material.

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Global Ban on Asbestos Use

The health hazards of asbestos have been well-documented since the early 20th century. However, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that governments around the world began taking steps to regulate or ban its use in construction.

The United States, for instance, banned most asbestos-containing products in 1978, with a complete ban following in 1989. Other countries, including Canada, Australia, and the European Union, took similar actions.

Despite these efforts, asbestos is still used in some parts of the world, particularly in developing countries where regulations may not be as strict. This poses a significant risk to workers and residents living in those areas. Asbestos-containing products may also find their way into developed countries through imported goods, highlighting the need for continued vigilance and regulation on a global scale.

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What to Do If Your Home Contains Asbestos

What to Do If Your Home Contains Asbestos

If you discover or suspect that asbestos is present in your home, it’s vital to follow a careful approach to manage this risk. Start by refraining from any activity that could disturb the asbestos-containing materials, such as drilling or remodeling. Then, consider the following steps:

  • Do Not Disturb: Avoid touching or displacing any suspected asbestos material.
  • Professional Testing: Contact accredited asbestos professionals to confirm the presence of asbestos through testing.
  • Expert Removal: If asbestos is found, hire licensed abatement contractors to remove and dispose of it safely.
  • Regular Monitoring: Even if removal isn’t immediately necessary, arrange for periodic inspections to monitor the condition of asbestos materials.
  • Legal Consultation: Should there be any health repercussions or legal concerns, seek advice from lawyers who have experience with asbestos-related issues.
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Alternatives to Asbestos in Construction

Asbestos was once considered an indispensable material in construction, but its harmful nature has prompted the use of substitutes. These alternatives are often more expensive, but they offer similar or superior properties to asbestos without endangering health. Some common examples include:

  • Fiberglass: This is a widely used insulation alternative that offers excellent heat resistance and does not pose a health risk.
  • Cellulose: Made from recycled paper, this material is also used for insulation and has similar thermal properties to asbestos.
  • Polyurethane Foam: This foam can be used for insulation and structural support in place of asbestos-containing materials like concrete. 
  • Ceramic Fiber: This material is often used as a replacement for asbestos in high-temperature applications due to its heat resistance properties.

Some experts suggest that homeowners opt for asbestos encapsulation rather than removal, as it is a safer and more cost-effective option. This involves sealing the asbestos-containing material to prevent fibers from being released into the air. However, encapsulation may not be a long-term solution, as the material can still deteriorate over time and release harmful fibers.

Addressing the asbestos issue in construction isn’t just a thing of history; it’s a present concern with future implications. By taking the knowledge shared here seriously and seeking professional help when needed, you can ensure your home is a safe and healthy place for you and your loved ones.

The asbestos story is a poignant reminder of the lasting impact of materials we once considered harmless. It’s up to us to handle these materials with the caution they deserve.

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